A lot has changed in the mobile arena in the past couple of months. While we’re used to seeing new devices and software updates over the course of any given year, both Google and Apple have announced some fairly major technology of late. Specifically, both companies have introduced design systems that allow developers to create augmented reality experiences. As one writer said, the AR platform wars have officially commenced.
For Google, the platform is called ARCore, and will operate on any device using Android 7.0 Nougat or above. For Apple, it’s ARKit, and it can be used via the brand new iOS 11 on compatible devices. For all intents and purposes the two systems are more or less the same. They use advanced capabilities combined with existing design platforms and languages (Java/OpenGL, Unreal, and Unity), giving app developers the chance to create very convincing augmented reality. If you’re unfamiliar with the more general idea, that basically means that you’ll be able to look at your phone screen and, using its camera, see virtual elements in the real space you’re pointing at. So, for instance, you might point your phone at an empty floor space and see a chair projected there.
From what we’ve already seen via ARKit (which has been a little quicker rolling out apps) and a few other things we’ve learned about the mixed reality business as a whole, here’s what these systems are going to be used for.
Setting Up Home Interiors
My use of the example of visualizing a chair in physical space was no accident. Actually, this speaks to what looks like it’s going to be one of the main uses of AR. Some have said that this technology will revolutionize interior design, and the early apps from Apple’s ARKit basically confirm the notion. There are apps for measuring rooms and walls, and others for imagining furniture layouts. These programs take the hassle out of planning an interior space, and will allow people to visualize all kinds of different options and possibilities.
This is a slightly vague concept that can be taken a lot of different ways. But early on, we’ve seen examples from both Google and Apple basically placing animated characters in physical space, simply for the sake of company or storytelling. This is naturally aimed at younger audiences, but it’s still a fairly big idea. Imagine characters like Winnie the Pooh, or the Cat in the Hat coming to life in AR and guiding children through stories. This certainly seems to be the direction in which some developers are heading.
Adapting Mobile Games
The bulk of AR apps so far have been original, but some have adapted existing mobile games, and more are likely around the corner. Euclidean Lands, for example, is a puzzle app that’s already been translated to AR. And Gonzo’s Quest, one of the most popular mobile and online slot machine games, has been promised by its developer in vivid virtual reality in the near future, with AR potentially to follow. It’s exceedingly likely that in another few months this list of examples will have expanded greatly to include other puzzles, slots, and all kinds of additional mobile games.
So far there are no direct messaging AR apps that we’ve seen. However, some of the most enjoyable early AR experiences are meant to create shareable images and videos. For instance, Giphy has already released an app through ARKit that allows people to place images, characters and videos in physical space and then snap photos of the effect. This whole concept can and will birth a new angle to mobile messaging in which we share AR images in meme-like fashion.
Changing Clothes Shopping
This is less about entertainment, and more like the idea of AR interior design, but it’s still a very big deal. It’s widely expected that numerous major clothing retailers will be releasing AR programs that allow customers to envision clothing and even simulate wearing it without ever visiting a store. AR (as well as VR) has been touted as a sort of new age changing room in this regard, which could bring about pretty big changes for those who like to shop, or who value fashion.