ARKit

The big news in the AR – and indeed the entire tech world – this month is  Apple’s ARKit.

Apple and their CEO Tim Cook have long shown  a keen interest in Augmented Reality. A few years ago Apple bought Metaio, an AR middleware company, and Primesense, a depth-vision company.

Metaio was known for industry leading image-based object tracking. Their middleware was able to place AR content on real-world 3D objects, as well as the standard marker used by most other AR middleware.

Primesense was a Microsoft technology partner, instrumental in the depth sensors that appeared in the first Kinect depth sensor released for the XBox.

With these purchases (and many others) Apple has built a stable of patents and expertise that has allowed it to create and release ARKit.

ARKit is a new toolset for AR, built right into the operating system of millions of Apple mobile phones. It’s backwards compatible with the iPhone 6 and 7 series, but will excell in the iPhone 8 and onwards, where specialised sensors are going to allow for an extremely impressive set of features.

All indications are that ARKit allows an app developer to create compelling AR experiences with a minimum of stress, and those experiences will perform exactly as intended. Content can be displayed in arbitrary locations with almost no drift or loss of tracking. There are even some fancy lighting tricks that can be leveraged to add real-world lighting to certain kinds of content.

There so far seems to be only one drawback with ARKit as it stands as of this writing – markers.

It appears that ARKit does not contain any functionality for markers. This means that any commercial entity that wishes to link a given piece of AR content to a specific image or object will simply not be able to.

For Blinxel this is a showstopper. We are creating a product that will embrace commercial client’s desires to place our Blink content in very specific contexts – a cereal box, a page in a textbook, the door of a junction box, the front of a sport-trading card. As it exists today, ARKit can do none of these things.

There is a rumor  that they may be introducing some kind of AI based image-recognition system, but it is unlikely to be available for some time. Until then, Blinxel is likely to choose a solution that will allow us to satisfy our client’s needs at a minimum of cost and fuss.

That’s it for this month. It’s exciting to think about the kind of world we’re building here. Stay tuned for more in the coming months. Great things are ahead of us.

Tuck Siver

MD, Blinxel PTY LTD.