ARKit 1.5 Brings Small (but Critical) Improvements

ARKit, Apple’s platform that brings augmented reality (AR) to smartphones, is now at version 1.5, which includes some snappy new features.

Still in preview alongside iOS 11.3, ARKit 1.5 makes improvements that will have a profound impact on the AR space. First, it allows for better mapping of irregularly shaped surfaces. Those who want to place an AR scene on an oddly shaped coffee table, for example, won’t have to worry much longer about their app being able to map that space.

The second big feature is the ability to scan and recognize vertical surfaces. With ARKit (and Google’s nascent ARCore), only horizontal surfaces are recognized. With the ability to identify vertical planes, Apple says, “real world images such as signs, posters, and artwork can be integrated into the AR experience.”

That’s an important feat. Not only will it make the AR home-decorating experience more useful, but it opens up more avenues for game developers. With the ability to scan both horizontal and vertical planes, a game can get a better idea of the entirety of your space. New features could include things like creating a ‘breach’ in your wall where enemies filter through.

In a demo, Apple showed a ball being thrown at a target on a wall. When it missed, the ball simply bounced to the ground as if it were a real object. This functionality isn’t included in the current iteration of ARKit; when you misfire at an enemy in a game, there’s no ‘recovery’ for your projectile.

It also allows for interactive marketing. A movie poster at your local theater might spring to life with a bespoke experience if you point your camera at it. Apple also says the pass-through camera has auto-focus and a sharper view in “most situations.”

With over 2,000 ARKit-enhanced apps, it’s clear there’s a market for augmented reality. ARKit 1.5 should drive that market even further. While the changes are slight, the ability to better layer a space with clearer imaging further erodes the wall between augmented and actual reality. We’d also have to think this is a precursor to whatever headset Apple may be dreaming up for use with augmented reality.

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