Let’s be frank – the ARKit will be a massive benefit for the AR industry. It’s not even a deep, insightful assertion; it’s now (mostly) accepted that the ARKit will improve adoption.

But because of this, I feel there will be some short-term dangers, which I will attempt to predict and (hopefully) cite later down the line. Hold tight.

Apple’s ecosystem will drive adoption (of course)

Firstly – and this is hard to dispute – millions of people have iPhones with the capabilities of running the software (models post-2015), and millions more will purchase the new phone with its improved hardware. Apple’s ecosystem makes sure that its users remains intertwined in the company’s web – and like that, a host of new people will be messing around with some very new, very cool pieces of technology. So that is one element of my confidence – the juggernaut of Apple itself and it’s intertwined hardware and software.

I’m not a personal fan of it form a consumer perspective, but I recognise the value of an integrated ecosystem for adoption. It’s not even an iron fist on its userbase; it’s a topaz fist, much higher on the Mohs scale of hardness, and equally difficult to escape.

ARKit developer accessibility

The ARKit isn’t the best, but it is the first. Matt Miesnieks provided an excellent article on why the ARKit is a good entry point for designers, but makes a crucial point on its lifespan: “ARKit isn’t really any better than Hololens… but Hololens hardware isn’t widely available.

Google also could easily have shipped Tango’s VIO system in a mass market Android phone over 12 months ago, but they also chose not to. If they did this, then ARKit would have looked like a catch up, instead of a breakthrough.”

Timing is key, and the ARKit looks to be dominating the market, even if the Tango is close by. Additionally, Apple had the time to tweak the tech based on their iOS:

“The reason ARKit is better is because Apple could afford to do the work to tightly couple the VIO algorithms to the sensors and spend a lot of time calibrating them to eliminate errors / uncertainty in the pose calculations.”

And with these tweaks comes a robust system out of the box, which enables them to get comfortable with the technology and, rather importantly, share the cool technology on social media. And the word starts spreading, fulled by heightened expectations and Apple’s hype machine.

Let the ARKit spice flow

So we now have a toolkit which enables developers to touch millions of consumers intrigued by the new tech. We have seen the kit being used for banal reasons, but an Angry Birds equivalent is fully expected to rise above the tide and become  go-to application, most likely driven by the Apple Store and word of mouth from various YouTube influencers.

And then comes the awful apps.

I will not lie – I am comparing almost exclusively with the App Store launch of many years ago. That was also a massive innovation driven by meaningful applications which increased the capabilities of phones. The same will be for the ARKit, by measuring rooms without a ruler as an example. Some mobile games were seen as gimmicks too, and no doubt the ARKit will fall into the same trap.

What I am saying is, people will jump on the bandwagon and have floating cats hover across a room through the magic of the kit. And charge people to download new cats for use. DLC cats, for AR. With innovation come exploitation.

With Apple’s reach comes profit above quality, exactly like the App Store.

And this will not just be a transition, like the App Store’s launch., This will be like lifting a gates of hell, as developers who have been developing for some time unleashing their wares like a flood. Unless Apple curates the thousands of apps suddenly available, dipping into the store will be a deluge of sand with sporadic pockets of unfindable diamonds in the rough.

And that is not necessarily a bad thing – the more content being generated, the more competition there is for innovation. The early days of the App Store will be really important to see which cool apps solidify their place, but I bet you they will become iron-clad, and will be hailed in a similar fashion to Pokemon GO as the main instigators of AR.

But until then, expect a lot of crap. Progress can be measured in small increments, and the ARKit will make a large leap come September – the real question is what the new, hot app will be which will show the ARKit at its best. I personally welcome our Angry Birds equivalent to lead the charge.

Tom Ffiske
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