Augmented reality on the iPhone is going to be amazing. Here's what's possible

  • Apple announced ARKit on Monday, which lets developers build AR apps for the iPhone and iPad.
  • AR isn't just about gaming, there are plenty of experiences it can enable.
  • AR will work on existing iPads and iPhones.
Apple demos AR at the WWDC 2017 in San Jose.
Source: Apple
Apple demos AR at the WWDC 2017 in San Jose.

AR is incredible technology, and it's going to enable a lot of really fun experiences on the iPhone and iPad.

During WWDC event on Monday, Apple unveiled a new set of tools called ARKit that will allow developers to build applications that use augmented reality. For some reason, and perhaps it's just a misunderstanding in society or its use in "Pokemon Go," most folks assume AR means gaming. It doesn't, though that's just one experience you might get out of it. There are plenty of others.

Handout: Houzz AR

The popular home improvement app Houzz, for example, already lets you drop furniture around your house. With AR, you can walk up to the furniture, walk away from it and see what it looks like from different perspectives in your house. Likewise, Lowe's is using AR and Tango to provide similar features and even for directing users around its stores. Then, looking through your iPhone or iPad, you can see how a couch or a table, for example, looks. You can see the exact size, move around it, walk away from it or walk nearer, all as if the table were actually sitting there.

Handout: Lowes directions

I used the technology when I was buying a TV. Amazon has an app for Tango that lets you shop for TVs while also seeing how they look on your TV stand. In this case, I was trying to find the right size to fit on my fireplace mantel. Sixty-five inches was too large, and I could tell that just by peering through my somewhat magical augmented reality smartphone from the couch. Eventually I decided to move down to 42 inches, which fit better.

Augmented reality, simply by its definition, means augmenting our actual reality with digital information. You might use your smartphone and point it at a restaurant where software could suddenly pull up a menu and reviews. Or maybe you'd point it at a flower and learn more about the particular species in your garden, thanks to information that appears right on your smartphone screen.

These are the sorts of things augmented reality can enable. Apple's ARKit will give developers the tools to build new experiences on the iPhone and iPad, even the ones we already own. Look for the new AR apps sometime around this fall when Apple launches its new mobile operating system, iOS 11.