In an attention-grabbing presentation at the Worldwide Developers Conference in June this year, Apple dictated the potential of augmented reality for the iPhone. “When you bring these things together, the results can actually be very profound,” said Apple’s vice president of software engineering Craig Federighi, referring to the iPhone’s touch screen and camera – the two elements that are most important for delivering AR experiences like a 3D configurator.

Federighi unveiled ARKit, a set of tools Apple has released for developers with iOS 11 to make creating augmented reality applications for iPhones and iPads much easier. Augmented Reality is a technology that allows your smartphone to mix the real environment with what is displayed on the screen with the device’s camera. For example, a game like Pokemon Go can make it look like it’s standing on your bedside table or sidewalk and not just floating in space.

The first wave of ARKit-based apps has been available for three weeks since iOS 11 debuted on September 19. As with earlier websites and mobile apps, the AR experiences here are not as deep or mature as Apple likes to propagate. Some still take too long to see a flat surface, while others are testing it out to see how best to use the new technology.

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Should you be looking at any of these at this point? We’ve explored several and found a handful that, while imperfect, provide compelling insights into how AR could ultimately rewrite the way we can transform reality through our intelligent devices.


Video tutorials and photos can be helpful to learn about specific topics, but as a viewer you have little control over the angles from which you can observe the scene. For example, if you watch a video to learn more about NASA’s Mars Curiosity Rover, you can only take one look at the vehicle, and it can be difficult to fully visualize how it works. It’s a problem that JigSpace hopes to solve.

The app contains a small library of animated 3D graphics with associated text that you can explore to learn how certain objects work. After selecting a tutorial, such as “How a piano works”, the app scans its environment for a flat surface on which it can virtually place the object. Once this is done, you can zoom in on the graphic and then rotate it to view it from any angle.

The app’s selection is currently limited, with only four sections and 26 tutorials or “jigs”. But it shows how AR can be used to immediately make useful experiences that feel not insignificant.


Smartphones have replaced tools such as calculators, wristwatches, torches and many other useful devices. But one they don’t have is the tape measure. This will change with AR, and ARKit applications will show TapMeasure why smartphones are becoming indispensable tools for depth sensing and other forms of digital measurement.

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TapMeasure is incredibly easy to use: Just tap the button that appears on the screen to set your position, move your smartphone along the surface you want to measure, and then press the button again to set its endpoint. The app also uses your iPhone camera for other measurement tasks and provides tools for aligning picture frames and creating 3D scans of rooms.

Fitness AR.

Holographic maps like those in The Hunger Games are still futuristic fantasies, but AR opens up new ways to view location data.

Take Fitness AR, an app integrated into the Fitness Social Network Strava, allows you to visualize running and cycling tours in 3D. Fitness AR creates a 3D map of the paths that you have logged into the app and that are visible from multiple viewpoints. You can zoom in to take a closer look and explore potential courses using the Fitness AR route building option.

As AR technology improves, imagine a tool like this that helps athletes improve their performance by exploring the terrain on previous routes and focusing on areas where they struggled.

Vuforia Chalk.

If you are the IT expert in your family, the Vuforia Chalk App from PTC Inc. is both a blessing and a curse. It makes it easier to explain instructions to someone remotely, which in turn increases the likelihood that you will receive calls from angry family members.

With Vuforia Chalk, you can share the view of your device on something with someone else to discuss a problem, say which button to press on a remote, or how to operate a homemade cappuccino machine. Both of you can then annotate the screen to share it in real time or comment on instructions. The app uses augmented reality to make sure these markers stay in place as you move your smartphone’s camera around the room.


News agencies are constantly developing their storytelling formats to keep pace with new technologies, and Quartz’s mobile app is a good example. When you receive treats of voice messages from the Quartz app, certain stories include an option to view the content in augmented reality.

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For example, a story about Tesla’s Model 3d could be accompanied by a 3D graphic of the car, which the reader can then view from several perspectives. It will take some time for news publishers and app developers to find the best uses for augmented reality, but Quartz’s approach is a promising start.

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