Apple’s augmented reality ambitions

Face recognition, an OLED screen and a £999 price tag will grab all the titles. But software developers around the world were waiting for one thing from the Apple event – more news on augmented reality.

And slap bang in the middle of the iPhone 8 unveiling, a long section about AR, and a demo from a games developer – a clear signal that the company sees the technology as a key attraction in its new phones.

Back in May, Apple released ARKit, its augmented reality development tool, hoping that developers would rush to try it out and give the company a leader in the fast-growing technology, which imposes virtual objects on the real world. And it has done just that.

Developers have been quick to experiment, showing off all kinds of apps, from a simple AR measuring tape to work out whether that chunky sofa will fit through the door, to a restaurant app that puts a virtual burger on your real plate.


But if Apple wants to shine in the AR revolution, it has a number of impediments to clear. First, there is plenty of rivals.

Lately, Google has been accelerating its Tango augmented reality platform, but with just a couple of smartphones boasting the tech to make it work, the company saw the writing on the wall when ARKit came out.

It has abandoned the brand and revealed ARCore, which will work on millions of Android phones, with a big pitch to the developer community to get involved. Google’s own designers have also shown their first experiments, revealing a Streetview animation which lets you see the British Museum inside from the front of the building, and a training app explaining how to use a coffee machine.

The other big competitor is Microsoft with its Hololens headset, which the firm is using to bring what it calls mixed reality into the workplace and the classroom. While it may provide a more convincing experience than AR seen through a mobile phone, the headset is expensive and is not at this stage aimed at the consumer market.

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