ARKit 2 has reasons to both rejoice and be cautious about, regarding the future of Augmented Reality

Last year in September, Apple finally launched its anniversary iPhone — the iPhone X, which is said to be the best iPhone manufactured till date, by the Cupertino based giant. Although the phone was successful in meeting all of its anticipatory buzz, there was a certain community of people who had more reasons to be happy about the new offering, than just the usual incremental improvements.

iPhone X was the first mass market mobile phone that had an Augmented Reality (AR) engine, built right into its then-newest OS — iOS 11. Courtesy of a dual front camera, iPhone X allows 3D AR experiences, which was a high-profile enhancement in iPhones’ overall AR capabilities.

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This would also be a boost to Apple’s very own ARKit, which was also launched last year, and which invites developers to build AR apps and experiences.

Let’s have a look at how the new offering will affect the AR spectrum.

What it means for the Developers and UX Designers

Up until the said point, building AR capabilities into apps was a manual, hectic and expensive process. The designers and developers, who wanted to use AR, had to do it all by themselves. In hindsight, this created further issues.

Because not all apps are built by the same developers, absence of a common, shared platform for building AR capabilities, often resulted in variable user experiences. The visuals of the apps and the way users interacted with these apps, varied to a great extent. And as such, it created a difference in receptiveness of the users, towards the latest AR applications.

Now, with iOS 12’s AR engine — ARKit 2, at the forefront, there won’t be a need for the developers to create their own AR solutions, while developing their apps. With an AR ready audience to cater to, this could mean that a new breed of AR applications, designed to enhance the ways people would want to interact with their immediate surroundings, might soon be in the offing.

But, the only people who will have a say in the way AR applications will be built in the future, are the developers and designers. Now, this alone is not that bad of a thing. However, when we realize that the thought process behind these applications will act as the bedrock to how the users’ attitudes change towards augmented experiences, it certainly becomes something of a significant value. This brings us to our next segment.

What needs to be done differently

Let’s talk a little about Ikea Place — Ikea’s AR app.

The app allows users to decide on how a particular piece of furniture will look in their house, in an augmented environment. The app lets you put virtual furniture at places in your house and even gives the option to replace existing furniture. Now, we can say that this is an extremely thoughtful step by Ikea. People do face problems (aesthetics and fitting) while buying furniture and this app seems to have the potential to fix the said issues.

On the flip side of it, in one of the episodes of The Big Bang Theory, Sheldon Cooper invents a 3-person chess, so as to accommodate more people in the game, at the same time. Now, this is not needed. People are very happy playing the 2-person chess and although a 3-person one is indeed innovative, people actually don’t need it.

Hence, it’ll be up to the designers and developers to take the users from here (Ikea Place) to providing them with newer, more enhanced and immersive experiences with AR.

And doing it only after the psychology behind the new technologies and experiences, have been carefully understood. Poorly engineered AR experiences, in a rush to bring them to market, will only hamper its future possibilities.

A repeat of Google Glass is certainly not what the AR space needs right now.

Augmented Reality for e-commerce

The ever-increasing online shopping trends have been the major talking point of this decade. Ecommerce asked for a huge shift in the buying patterns of people who like to touch and feel the products, before making the purchase. Well, as it turns out, the shift proved to be a relatively simpler thing and people quite easily adapted to it.

But because there’s always a scope as well as need for constant innovation, introduction of AR in ecommerce might be not just useful but extremely fulfilling as well.

How you ask?

Suppose you’re shopping online and a particular piece of clothing manages to catch your attention. Now, you want to purchase it but you’re not completely sure how it would look on you. With AR built-in, you can ask someone to point your phone’s camera at you (or you can do it yourself using the front camera), and the piece of clothing will appear superimposed on you, thereby enabling you to make better purchasing decisions.

And other than Ikea, there’re actually some AR applications that have already forayed into the fledgling ecommerce space.

One such app maker is ModiFace, which creates augmented reality tech for beauty brands. It offers an AR app called Mirror, which allows you to virtually try different beauty products by changing your makeup, eye and hair colour.

Then there’s this another player in the ecommerce spectrum, which goes by the name Holition. It’s a digital creative studio that provides 3D digital experiences to organizations. The company counts Swatch Group and Richemont, among its list of high-profile clients.

And these are just a couple of examples on how AR is affecting both the B2B and B2C domains.

To conclude…

Developers and designers need to gear up for the AR shift. The current trends are extremely positive, and as such, people and organizations alike, would want to see new inroads being made in the Augmented Reality space.

That being said, AR apps are not very easy to develop, and you need to take a call on how important an AR app is for you, at any given moment. Things like budget and effectiveness need to be carefully thought upon first, only after which, the need of an AR app should be decided upon.

Product Marketing @ WebEngage || Disciple of Human Psychology & a lifelong Chelsea fan.