Apple’s Keynote this past Tuesday was a bold endorsement of augmented reality, however for many AR proponents like myself, it didn’t go quite far enough. But even though many of the breakthrough hardware upgrades are seemingly purposed for hi-tech selfies and more accurately-mapped Snapchat filters, the tech that powers it enables much more.
Below is a list of what we found most exciting.
1. General Hardware Upgrades
According to Apple, the iPhone 8, 8 Plus and X all have new cameras specially calibrated for AR, capable of positional tracking in low light with scenes rendering at 60FPS in up to 4K. A new gyroscope and accelerometer should help with more accurate motion tracking as well, which should minimize drift when using AR apps.
2. TrueDepth Camera
Enabling the new Face ID unlocking system on the iPhone X, the TrueDepth Camera uses an array of image sensors to detect a user’s unique facial features to unlock the phone. Apple envisions the camera being used to adorn users faces with makeup, tattoos, beards, or jewelry, and is opening it up to developers to create their own experiences.
3. A11 Bionic
Perhaps the most significant announcement from the Keynote was the introduction of the new 64-bit A11 Bionic chip. With four “efficiency” cores and two “performance” cores, this six core processor promises 25% faster CPU performance and 30% faster GPU performance than their previous top of the line chip, the A10 Fusion chip used in the iPhone 7 and iPad Pro. Shockingly enough, that puts the the new iPhone on par with Apple’s 13 inch Macbook Pro in terms of performance, according to initial Geekbench Scores.
For augmented reality applications however, the real winner is in the A11’s new Neural Engine chip, designated specifically for more efficient machine learning and artificial intelligence calculations such as object detection. This is the brain that powers Face ID, and according to Apple, is capable of performing 600 billion operations per second.
4. AR On The Way
Though no Apple-made AR application made the list, they made sure to showcase some of the coolest new AR apps out there.
Warhammer 40,000: Freeblade from Pixel Toys was first up with a new AR mode that brings battles into the real world.
Sky Guide from Fifth Star Labs also got screen time, and was touted for its ability to overlay AR constellations onto the night sky.
For the sports fans, MLB At Bat was also shown, with player statistics overlaid on top of the field for people at games using the app.
Finally, the upcoming AR strategy game The Machines was shown, a stunning multiplayer table-top game from Directive Games created using Unreal Engine 4.
While AR may not have been in the spotlight during the keynote, it’s clear that Apple is dedicating lots of resources to pursuing smartphone AR. With the gorgeous new hardware soon up for grabs one thing is clear: Apple is kicking off the death of the smartphone with iPhone X as we slowly start to shift to the new standard of immersive computing.
What did you think of Apple's AR announcements? Let us know in the comments below!