On Wednesday, as expected, Apple unveiled the next generation of iPhones, namely the iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max along with the more affordable iPhone XR, each equipped with a TrueDepth sensor.
Alongside the iPhone launch, CEO Tim Cook and company demonstrated what these new devices, equipped with iOS 12 and ARKit 2.0, can do for augmented reality apps.
Apple got an assist from NBA Hall of Famer Steve Nash and NEX Team, Inc. CEO David Lee to show off how machine learning on the new iPhone X lineup running the A12 Bionic chip is able to improve their HomeCourt app. (In case you were wondering why Steve Nash was on stage, even though he's retired from the NBA, it turns out he's an investor in NEX Team.)
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The app uses machine learning to recognize the basketball court and track a player's motion to analyze his or her shots in real time. With ARKit, the app can place virtual indicators on the court for made and missed shots and later deliver statistical data to help the shooter improve their shooting form.
Next, Atli Mar, the CEO of Directive Games, followed with a presentation of a multiplayer AR arcade game that reboots the classic arcade game Galaga in augmented reality.
The game, which Mar said will arrive in the App Store later this year, takes advantage of ARKit 2.0's multiplayer support to allow gamers to participate simultaneously. According to Mar, the app also leverages the four-core GPU of the new iPhones to render higher quality graphics. Likewise, stereo sound on the iPhone XS and XS Max give the game more immersive sound.
In addition, Apple highlighted Fish and Go, an app that turns the user's surroundings into an underwater environment filled with more than 200 species of sea dwellers, and Rocket Espresso, whose webstore will be able to display 3D models of products in AR with the AR Quick Look feature in iOS 12.
In the end, augmented reality was more of supporting player than a star of the show after much of what's new with ARKit was revealed at WWDC 2018. The augmented reality section of the keynote, highlighting ARKit and AR Quick Look, commanded less than a minute of stage time, and even then it was more of proof-point for the power of the A12 Bionic chip. Elsewhere, the showcased apps and developers touted machine learning, GPU, and stereo sound features more than augmented reality.
Before anyone gets tempted into reading too much into this, recall that Apple's AR smartglasses are all but confirmed. AR isn't going away at Apple, and its role on the iPhone will serve as a bridge to what is expected to be the company's next new product category.