The launch of iOS11 has opened up a massive new audience for Augmented Reality (AR), a technology that has so far struggled to break through to the mainstream.
While we’ve been talking about the concept of putting digital layers on top of real-world environments to literally augment reality for several years, it hadn’t really caught on. There was the odd success story such as Blippar, but we were still waiting for that watershed moment. Well, that moment might have finally come with the launch of iOS11, with its built-in support for AR experiences.
While Android announced support for AR with its ARCore a few weeks back – and Google’s hardware-based solution, Tango had shown some promise – it’s likely to be Apple’s support that really brings AR into the limelight. After all, Android’s fragmented ecosystem limits the number of devices that can run ARCore, while Apple’s user community is much more likely to be running the latest version of iOS and use hardware capable of supporting ARKit.
While some commentators reckon that ARKit is not ready for prime time, we’d beg to differ, as we’ve seen plenty of interesting concepts explored on the excellent Made With ARKit blog. AR can help you to find your friends at festivals, create a portal to another dimension, or have a robot dancing in your living room.
There are some that contend many of the above examples are gimmicky, but we’d argue that they are doing a great job of showing off the potential of the technology. We’ve also pinpointed a few of our favourite AR apps that have grabbed our imagination in the list below. All of them are free to download, but most include in-app purchases.
Created by Curiscope, which also brought you the Virtuali-Tee, shARk is an app that lets you have your very own shark as a pet. Using bait to encourage it to follow you around, you’ll discover that this particular shark is not confined to water, but can go pretty much anywhere it pleases. You can even show off your shark – and the weird places it has been showing up – to other users thanks to in-app video-sharing. If you’re after a pet that is a little bit cuter, though arguably just as dangerous, then perhaps check out AR Dragon.
Very much positioned as an educational tool, JigSpace shows you how a variety of things – from the Hubble telescope to a trebuchet – work using AR. The ‘jigs’ are akin to instruction manuals and could be used for a whole host of devices in the future. This app does a great job of showing off the potential of AR as an educational tool.
If you want to plan out your dream home, re-organise your furniture or simply figure out where you are going to put your new armchair, then Housecraft is the app for you. It’s similar in principle to the Ikea Place app, though unlike Ikea Place it’s available outside of the US. Another player in this category is Houzz – which has added an AR mode to its existing app – and there are others too, reflecting the potential of AR for the design community.
Thomas and Friends Minis
If it’s gaming that you are into, then AR promises you some new experiences too. Thomas and Friends Minis from Budge Studios will delight kids and adults alike, as it enables you to build AR train sets around your own home or wherever you are. For something slightly more grown-up, check out the new AR mode in the Kings of Pool app, making cue sports even more fun than before.
This app lets you paint anywhere you want and leaves your creations for others to discover. All of the artworks are anonymous but users can vote up their favourites and vote down the ones they don’t like, making the best ones easier to discover. Paint Space AR is another app that lets you take your creativity to anywhere in the world too.
While AR is still very much in its nascent stages, the kind of experimentation we are seeing in this area shows that the future of this technology will go well beyond pure gimmicks.
If you’re an AR startup looking to take your creations to a wider audience, get in touch.