Apple has Leapfrogged its Augmented Reality Competition with ARKit

As I've written in the past, I believe augmented reality (AR) has the potential to change our daily lives in the next ten years as thoroughly as the smart phone did over the past ten. And I'm not alone in that assessment. Some of the largest technology companies in the world are making bets in AR.

  • Microsoft with HoloLens

  • Facebook with AR Studio

  • Google with Project Tango

When Apple stepped into the AR market with the announcement of ARKit at this year's WWDC, they leapfrogged their competition and laid the foundation for a serious AR platform.

I see a common obstacle for Microsoft, Google and Facebook's entrances into AR. I expect they will all struggle to incentivize enough developers to build a vibrant ecosystem.

Google's Project Tango has been around since 2014, and it is almost universally considered a flop. Project Tango only works on specialized hardware that relatively few people own, and because of that, the software landscape is bleak.

Microsoft's HoloLens was announced in early 2015, and it's really quite impressive by all accounts. But it's not really a consumer product. The HoloLens starts at $3,000 and is marketed as a developer edition. At this point, they have too few users to truly attract developers in large numbers. Obviously, this could change dramatically if they announce a truly revolutionary consumer device.

Facebook's AR Studio is only a few months older than AR Kit, and Facebook has 2 billion users. But at this point, Facebook isn't offering a way for developers to monetize their AR Studio creations. This means it will be filled with AR "apps" that are essentially ads for companies that monetize in other ways.

In the fall, Apple will update their iPhone line and hundreds of millions of iOS devices being used today will be updated to iOS 11 and capable of running ARKit apps. This is serious incentive, and I expect to see a cascade of AR-enabled apps in the App Store at the end of the year. I can't wait to see what they come up with. Until then, we can follow the example work indie developers are sharing on Twitter. Here're some of my favorites right now.

Inter-dimentional Portal

Imagine something like this when we have AR glasses!

An AR Measuring Tape

No doubt we'll see countless of these released in the fall.

A Dancing Robot

The shadows on this are mind-blowingly realistic.

AR Minecraft

Video games is an area where we will very likely see a lot of developers focusing their efforts. 

Possible Airbnb Usecase

This is just a concept, but I hope we see some more practical use cases like this.

If you want to keep up with interesting ARKit creations, follow Made with ARKit on Twitter.

Header image from Apple.