Apple’s ARKit launches a new channel: The hidden layers of reality

With similar new tech from Google, Microsoft and Facebook, advertising and marketing now have new dimensions.

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An ARKit-generated, moving car on a real driveway

An ARKit-generated, moving car on a real driveway

Say goodbye to living in just one plane of reality.

That’s because Apple announced today the release of its ARKit, a set of software tools that makes possible high-quality augmented reality (AR) seen through Apple iPhones and iPads.

It overlays 3D graphics, animation and photo-realistic objects on what we used to call the real world, in ways that take the next step beyond the Pokémon Go phenomenon last year.

With this wide availability of AR, marketing platform Wyng co-founder Wendell Lansford told me via email, AR will change “from a novelty to a viable marketing vehicle, and create new paid and owned marketing opportunities for brands and agencies.”

Its broad availability on Apple devices with iOS 11 (out tomorrow), plus comparable technology that Google is releasing for Androids, means that AR — after years of teasing — is now a full channel for entertainment, advertising, education, games and whatever else multi-plane imaginations can create.

The launch announcement was part of the iPhone 10th anniversary event today, which also featured new iPhones and new versions of the Apple Watch and Apple TV. In addition to the new phone models, the ARKit can work on any iPhone 6s, iPhone 7, iPhone SE, iPad Pro and 2017 iPad with the new iOS. In other words, by next year, an estimated half a billion iOS devices are expected to have this capability.

“I share all the enthusiasm in the world for this new consumer interaction model,” AdColony SVP for Strategy Ryan Griffin told me, including the possibility that AR-based advertising could some day be distributed programmatically.

‘Dive in and learn’

AR “is now on the launching pad” in ways that Pokémon Go doesn’t appear to have been, he added, noting that he had a good deal of experience with that pioneering game.

But, Griffin said, he would advise brands to first “dive in to learn” how consumers will use this new medium, and don’t try to sell things yet.

The ARKit, which was previewed in June at Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference, utilizes device motion tracking, camera scene capture and advanced scene processing so that the overlays know their positions in the physical world by detecting their position from the device. This means they can get bigger or smaller as you walk toward or away from them, or they can bump into walls.

Over the past few months, a variety of developers have experimented with the technology, producing such demonstrations as:

New commercial apps building on the ARKit include:

    • Major League Baseball at Bat, where player stats and scores are overlaid on a live game.
    • The Machines, an iOS-only battle game that takes place right in front of you, so you can walk around and actually be inside the game.

    • IKEA Place, which lets you place any of about 2,000 products in real space:

But it’s not only Apple that has fired a starting gun on AR. Last month, Google released its AR technology, ARCore, which is becoming available on about 100 million Android devices, plus Microsoft and Facebook has been heavily involved in developing AR and virtual reality experiences.

Here’s a sample of what Google is envisioning:

Mark Skilton, a professor in information systems and management at the UK’s University of Warwick, told me via email that AR will be the “’next big shift’ in how people use data and interact with their mobile devices.”

He noted that the capability to overlay 3D images in real time has been around for some years in the engineering world, but “costs have been huge.”

The coming of inexpensive AR, he added, will “make the ‘old days’ of websites and social media seem very ‘flat and dull.’”

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About the author

Barry Levine
Barry Levine covers marketing technology for Third Door Media. Previously, he covered this space as a Senior Writer for VentureBeat, and he has written about these and other tech subjects for such publications as CMSWire and NewsFactor. He founded and led the web site/unit at PBS station Thirteen/WNET; worked as an online Senior Producer/writer for Viacom; created a successful interactive game, PLAY IT BY EAR: The First CD Game; founded and led an independent film showcase, CENTER SCREEN, based at Harvard and M.I.T.; and served over five years as a consultant to the M.I.T. Media Lab. You can find him at LinkedIn, and on Twitter at xBarryLevine.

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