×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

The Biggest New Thing Apple Is About to Release Isn’t Hardware at All

After suffering a number of devastating leaks, Apple has few surprises left for this week’s iPhone event. The company is widely expected to introduce a new $1,000 iPhone X, as well as two new iPhone 8 models and a souped-up Apple TV. However, the biggest thing that Apple is about to release isn’t a hardware product at all. It’s ARKit, the company’s entrance into the augmented reality (AR) space.

First announced at the company’s Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC) in June, ARKit enables developers to build their own augmented reality apps for iPhones and iPads. With it, developers will be able to overlay digital animations and objects over a camera view of the real world, something that was first popularized a year ago by Pokemon Go.

However, there is a key difference between Pokemon Go and the apps ARKit makes possible: ARKit uses a technology called simultaneous localization and mapping, or SLAM, to recognize objects and their position relative to the camera.

This makes it possible, for example, to not just place a Pokemon-like character on a table, but to actually have it fall off the edge if it would stray too far. It can also be used to measure objects, or scale things relative to their environment, and then keep them in scale as the phone user walks closer. In other words: Digital objects behave much more like real things, which is key to making AR believable.

Apple first made ARKit available to developers when it released a preview version of iOS 11 in June, and a number of people have been testing the limits of the technology, in turn posting crazy videos on Twitter, ever since.

But we are only going to see the real impact of ARKit when real apps, and not just demos, are going to be made available to consumers. Apple is expected to highlight a number of such apps at its press event Tuesday, and consumers won’t even have to buy one of the iPhones announced at the event to try them.

ARKit will also run on any iPhone 6s, iPhone 7 and iPhone SE, as well as the iPad Pro and the 2017 iPad, as soon as these devices receive the new version of iOS, which could be Tuesday as well. ARKit-enabled apps will run on as many as 500 million devices by the end of the year, by some estimates.

That’s a big audience, and a big leap for Apple which has seen massive competition from other companies in next-generation computing technologies like virtual and augmented reality — technologies that nowadays often require PCs or phones to work, but could eventually lead to the next big category-defining device, be it standalone VR headsets or a pair of AR glasses.

For a long time, Apple didn’t have any VR initiatives at all. The company only recently added support for VR headsets to its OS X desktop operating system, but doesn’t make any such headset itself. Apple also stood by as Google, Microsoft and others began to explore AR hardware.

Granted, there is also intense competition for smartphone-based AR; Google recently announced its own take on mobile AR for Android, and Facebook is set to introduce AR tools to developers as well. But with ARKit, Apple has a chance to effectively leapfrog the competition by adding AR support to more phones faster than anyone else.

More Digital

  • BURBANK, CALIFORNIA - JANUARY 18: (EDITORIAL

    Dax Shepard, Bobby Bones, 'Breakfast Club' Among iHeartRadio Podcast Awards Winners

    iHeartRadio launched its first ever Podcast Awards on Friday (January 18) in Los Angeles. Among the winners in 22 categories were “Whine Down with Jana Kramer” (Best Entertainment TV Podcast); “Armchair Expert with Dax Shepard (Breakout Podcast); “Bobbycast” (Music Podcast); and “The Breakfast Club” (Best Multicultural Podcast). The winners were determined by iHeartRadio listeners. Taking the top prize of Podcast [...]

  • Velvet Buzzsaw trailer

    Netflix Original Movies: What to Look Forward To in 2019

    Following the biggest fourth-quarter worldwide subscriber gain ever and some controversy around increased prices in the U.S., Netflix looks to keep its momentum going into 2019. From Jan. 18 through March, the streaming site will release 10 original films, including action-packed thrillers, a post-apocalyptic sci-fi, quirky comedies, inspirational dramas, an artistic horror movie and a viral [...]

  • The Beatles Eight Days a Week

    Imagine's Documentary Arm Sets First-Look Pact With Apple (EXCLUSIVE)

    Brian Grazer and Ron Howard’s Imagine Documentaries has set a first-look pact with Apple to develop non-fiction features and series. The deal comes as Imagine is investing heavily in the premium non-fiction arena. The company in June recruited RadicalMedia veteran Justin Wilkes to head Imagine Documentaries as president. The deal suggests that Apple sees docu [...]

  • Walt Disney HQ LA

    Disney Unveils Financial Data for DTC Unit, Sets April 11 for Investor Presentation

    Disney has rejiggered its business segments for earnings reporting to make room for the new unit housing its global streaming operations. Disney on Friday released restated earnings for fiscal 2018, 2017 and 2016 to give investors and financial analysts better visibility into its spending on the launch of the Disney Plus, ESPN Plus and other [...]

  • Facebook Logo

    Release of Docs to Reveal How Facebook Made Money Off Children

    Documents related to a 2012 lawsuit against Facebook in which children, sometimes unwittingly, spent their parents’ money on games via the social site will be unsealed, according to a Monday ruling from the United States District Court. The court gave Facebook ten days to file unredacted documents in accordance with the ruling. The 2012 lawsuit [...]

  • Facebook Logo

    Facebook Sets Up New Product Group for AR Glasses (Report)

    Facebook has restructured its augmented and virtual reality research division and set up a new group tasked with building augmented reality (AR) glasses, according to a new Business Insider report. Facebook acknowledged the move in a statement given to the publication, saying that the move affected “a few hundred people.” The group has already built [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content