These 5 augmented reality apps show the future of the iPhone

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These 5 augmented reality apps show the future of the iPhone

The next version of iOS will bring augmented reality to the masses through a software package called ARKit. As the following demos show, this will turn the iPhone into a window of a new world filled with people, objects and dreams that seemingly coexist with the real world.

TechCrunch got an early look at some of the apps developers built using ARKit. They’re impressive: Ikea furniture appears in your room, a very hungry caterpillar comes to life and walkers from The Walking Dead can be killed with AR weapons.

Apple is not alone in this quest. Google just announced its version of ARKit that will allow Android phones in on the fun, too.



What it does: Allows you to place actual size replicas of IKEA sofas and armchairs into your house. 2,000 items will be available at launch.



How it works: You tap on a catalog that lets you search and select items. You tap once to have it hover over your floor, rotate with a finger and tap again to place. The colors and textures are accurately represented and these are fully re-worked 3D models from IKEA’s 3D scans used for its catalogs. It looks and works great, just as you’d expect. IKEA Leader of Digital Transformation Michael Valdsgaard says that it took them about 7 weeks or so, beginning slightly before Apple’s announcement of ARKit, to implement the mode. It will be exclusive to iOS for now because it’s the largest single target of AR capable devices. We asked Valdsgaard how long it took to get a first version up and running and he said just a couple of weeks. This has been a holy grail for furniture and home goods manufacturers and sales apps for what seems like forever, and it’s here.


Arise Demo Photo

What it does: It’s a game from Climax Studios that places a (scalable) 3D world full of crumbling ruins onto your tabletop that you help your character navigate through without any traditional controls.



How it works: You look through your device like a viewport and align the perspective of the various pathways to allow your character to progress. There are no on-screen controls at all, which is a veryinteresting trend. Climax CEO Simon Gardner says that translating the game into AR was attractive to the studio (which has been around for 30 years) was the potentially huge install base of ARKit. They’re able to target hundreds of millions of potential customers by implementing a new technology, which is not the typical scenario where you start at effectively zero. The experience was also highly mobile, requiring that you move around the scenes to complete them. Some AR experiences may very well be limited in their use or adoption because many people use phones in places where they are required to be stationary.



What it does: Allows you to place gifs in 3D space, share videos of them or even share the whole 3D scene in AR with friends who have the app. They can then add, remix and re-share new instances of the scene. As many people as you want can collaborate on the space.



How it works: You drop gifs into the world in the exact position you want them. A curated and trending mix of gifs that have transparency built into them is the default, but you can also flip it over to place any old Gif on the platform. Every scene gets a unique URL that can be remixed and added to by people that you share it with, effectively creating a shared gif space that can be ping-pinged around. The placement of gifs felt very logical and straightforward, but the ability to “paint” with the gifs and then share the scenes whole in a collaborative fashion was a pleasant surprise. One example that was impressive was leaving a pathway to a “message” that a friend could follow when you shared the scene to them. Ralph Bishop, GIPHY’s head of design, says that the app will be free like their other apps are but will have branded partners providing some content. GIPHY has something interesting going on here with a social AR experience. It’s early days but this seems promising.


The Walking Dead: Our World

What it does: It’s a location-aware shooter that has you turning in place to mow down zombies with various weaponry.


The Walking Dead: Our World

How it works: The scene we saw looked pretty solid, with high resolution zombies coming at you from all angles, forcing you to move and rotate to dodge and fend them off. You progress by “rescuing” survivors from the show which provide you with unique additional capabilities. Environmental enhancements like virtual “sewers” that walkers can crawl up out of give each scene a unique feel. It looked fast and smooth on a demo iPad. AMC and Next Games collaborated on this title. There were some additional fun features like the ability to call up various poses on a survivor like Michonne and stand next to them to take a selfie — which felt super cool. The best kinds of IP-based games and apps will focus on unlocking these kinds of “bring that world into your world’ experiences” rather than cookie cutter gameplay.


The Very Hungry Caterpillar AR

What it does: Translates the incredibly popular children’s book into AR.


The Very Hungry Caterpillar AR

How it works: The story unfolds by launching the app and simply pointing at objects in the scene. We saw just a small portion of the app that had apples being coaxed from a tree and the caterpillar scooching its way through them to grow larger. This was my favorite demo of the day, largely because it was cute, clever and just interactive enough for the age level it is targeting. It’s also another ‘zero controls’ example, which is wonderful for small children. Touch Press CEO Barry O’Neill says that they’ve seen some very interesting behavior from kids using the app including getting right down at eye level with the tiny caterpillar — which meant that they really had to up-res the textures and models to keep them looking great. Now that ARKit enables capturing any plane and remembering where objects are (even if you move 30-50 feet away and come back), storytelling in AR is finally moving beyond marker-based book enhancements. Any surface is a book and can tell a story.