The release of ARKit in 2017 generated a new world of possibilities for augmented reality, and the release of ARKit 2 will only provide more opportunities for the AR industry and businesses to expand.

ARKit is Apple’s augmented reality (AR) platform for iOS devices, deemed the biggest in the world. The cutting-edge development kit allows app developers to create AR applications at a much faster rate and at a lower cost than alternative software. This makes AR development more accessible to individuals and companies, and provides developers with new and innovative ways to engage with consumers. ARKit 2 will roll out later this year with the iOS 12 update.

Apple WWDC Augmented Reality AR Kit 2
People participating in augmented reality multi-user gaming. Source: James Martin/CNET

Here’s a rundown of some of the platform’s new features that were announced at Apple’s WWDC keynote, and what they can do for the AR industry and businesses:

Shared Experiences

Soon you can interact with your friends and family through AR apps, synchronised across devices in real-time. The previous lack of real-time interactivity with AR apps hindered the potential of AR, but with the release of ARKit 2, users can have synchronised experiences during multiplayer apps. In the game demonstrated, multiple users (including a spectator) can be seen walking around the game area which occupies the same virtual space for all users in real-time. Previously, each player was likely to see the game area in different locations around them.

Shared Experiences will enhance real-time collaboration in areas such as architecture and planning, home design or gaming. The experience will be enriched from the added potential of collaborating with others.

But where ARKit’s shared experiences will only benefit iOS users, Google’s upcoming update to its ARCore platform will allow multiplayer experiences cross-platform between iOS and Android users.

Object detection & tracking

Support for 2D image detection was added to ARKit 1.5 to enable static 2D images such as signs, posters and artwork to trigger an augmented experience. Now with ARKit 2, apps can use a 2D marker to produce a 3D, moving AR object that will ‘stick’ to the specified marker as it is moved freely across the screen. ARKit 2 also allows developers to go even further, detecting 3D objects like sculptures, toys or furniture as AR markers. Looking for a Coke bottle with your name on it could soon be re-lived with every Coke bottle, using AR.

Persistent Experiences

The opportunity for users to leave their virtual objects in the real world and return to them when they open their app again will soon be possible, with ARKit 2’s persistent experiences. Previously, apps were unable to recall the placement of virtual items relative to the real world, but with the release of ARKit 2, apps will remember precisely where these AR models were placed.

During the WWDC keynote, an innovative new app from LEGO was demonstrated where up to four players can participate and interact, incorporating the features of shared experiences and 3D object detection by starting the game based on which LEGO model was in front of the camera. Director of Innovation at LEGO, Martin Sanders, demonstrated the app, using an iPad to play with the new Assembly Square LEGO building on stage. Saunders demonstrated that ARKit 2 enables developers to augment the inside of the structures, behind the wall facing the camera which triggers the experience. “The fun doesn’t need to end there, because with ARKit 2, we get to save our entire world back into our physical set, and pick up where we left off,” Saunders said.

LEGO Augmented Reality AR Kit 2
Lego’s Assembly Square augmented reality concept. Source: Gizmodo

Augmented reality is becoming an increasingly popular and effective way to create a unique and immersive way to engage customers. Apple’s updates to ARKit allow unmeasurable possibilities, whether it be through collaborating in real-time on design projects, or expressing your competitive side in a multiplayer game. The world of marketing can be transformed through 3D object detection; much like the LEGO building coming to life on screen, the next generation of any product box could too. That next generation starts now.