As expected, Apple revealed today at the WWDC keynote that ARKit 2.0 will support multiplayer gaming support and persistent content, which will arrive this fall with iOS 12.
In addition to persistent and shared experiences, ARKit 2.0 will bring improved face tracking, more realistic rendering, and 3D object detection. Shared experiences will enable multiplayer support for games and group collaboration for productivity apps. In addition, a spectator mode so that others can watch along from another iOS device.
To demonstrate the new shared experiences capability, Apple has published a sample multiplayer game that will be available for download today, according to Craig Federighi, vice president of senior vice president of software engineering.
Meanwhile, persistent AR will allow users to save the location of AR content so that users can resume interactions in the same place at a later time. This way, games can be resumed later or creators can save and then continue working on content.
Lego demonstrated 3D object detection and the shared, persistent experiences in a prototype app. Users will be able to scan a Lego set and bring it to life in AR, and multiple players will be able to play along. The whole virtual playset can be saved to the physical set to pick up play after naptime. The AR experience will be available later this year.
In addition, Apple will introduce a new file format for augmented reality called USDZ, which is based on Pixar's Universal Scene Description protocol. The new format also flies in the face of the open gITF format that many companies in the augmented reality space have gravitated towards. Considering Apple's history of proprietary file formats and connectors, this development should not be much of a surprise.
The format enables the new Quicklook for AR feature, which Federighi demonstrated with AR content in an article via Apple's News app. The format would also enable AR experiences on the web, as shown via a guitar customization tool for the Fender website. Musicians can now see how that Stratocaster with sunburst finish looks in their home studio.
Alongside the new file format, Federighi introduced Measure, Apple's own AR measuring app and death knell for all the other measuring apps in the App Store. The iOS 12 app is capable of measuring diagonal lengths, calculate area, and share photos with embedded dimensions.
During the presentation, Federighi claimed that Apple is "doubling down on performance," with iOS 12 being available on any device that supports iOS 11. Likewise, the same devices that were ARKit-compatible will receive the new features of ARKit 2.0. As per usual, iOS 12 along with ARKit 2.0 are available in beta to developers or anyone impersonating them on eligible iPhones and iPads.
With ARKit 2.0, Apple takes a step closer to achieving the AR Cloud, but at the same time comes up short. For instance, shared experiences work only between iOS devices, whereas Cloud Anchors from Google work on Android and iOS. Persistent experiences do not appear to enable to the AR everywhere ethos of AR Cloud proponents.
Despite its shortcomings, the features do evolve Apple's AR toolkit in terms of social experiences and more robust interactivity. Until further notice, Apple remains the leader of the mobile AR space.
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