Towards the beginning of the summer, Apple released its augmented reality development platform, ARKit, to enthusiastic acclaim from the developer community. For those not in the know, augmented reality (AR) is a technology that superimposes computer-generated images on a user’s view of the real world. Think Snapchat filters and Pokemon Go, for example.
“The most impressive aspect of ARKit is that it tends to just work,” Cody Brown of virtual reality production studio IRL told Motherboard, echoing praise of Apple’s other elegant products.
In the weeks following its release, developers used ARKit to create some pretty stunning augmented reality demos and experiences. You can find a few standouts in this article from Wired, including a furniture-sampling effort from IKEA, a Pokemon Go-style first person shooter, and an app to help you locate friends in a crowd.
A few months after ARKit’s release, Google launched ARCore in response to Apple’s already popular software development kit (SDK). According to Medium’s Matt Miesnieks, ARCore borrows heavily from Google’s prior augmented reality development program, Project Tango, meaning it has “at least 2 years more development inside Google than ARKit had inside Apple.”
With the launch of ARKit and ARCore, two of the world’s largest and most-successful companies have committed to the long term success of augmented reality, and opened up a new front in a war that has already pitted Macs versus PCs and iPhones versus Androids.
(Incidentally, Facebook also has an augmented reality development platform, AR Studio, but it hasn’t matched ARKit or ARCore in terms of hype and publicity.)
So, which company is better positioned to dominate the augmented reality market: Apple or Google? According to Beck Besecker, CEO and co-founder of Marxent, neither SDK is sufficiently superior to constitute a knockout punch.
“[ARKit and ARCore] both have great functionality without appreciable differences,” he told Mashable. “Combined, they lend significant momentum to mass market augmented reality experiences. It’s a big wake up call to both investors and developers that the technology to support AR experiences is here, and that now is the time to take advantage.”
Apple appears much closer to distributing AR content on a large scale, however. While Facebook and Google dedicated significant resources to virtual reality production in 2015 and 2016, Apple’s focus remained on AR. With the company now ready to launch iOS 11 and introduce the new iPhone 8, many millions of Apple users will soon have instant access to a rich augmented reality app environment.
There are more Android than iOS users out there, but ARCore is currently only available on the Google Pixel and Samsung Galaxy S8, so Apple looks primed to dominate the AR space in the near future – and we all know how tough it is to lure Apple users away from the comforts of the iOS ecosystem.
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Image credit: Oral Ofori/Vimeo