WWDC 2018: New Apple Augmented Reality Tools Let You Sync To Other Phones

Apple is ramping up its AR. 

Augmented reality has increasingly been a priority for Apple and Google as the two compete to attract the would-be developers of the next smash hit like Pokémon GO. At Monday’s Worldwide Developers Conference, the company unrolled a series of updates to its AR platform, including features that allow two human users to share the same AR experience.

Apple VP Craig Federighi noted that iOS is the “world’s largest AR platform, by far,” and Apple’s new updates takes the claim to a new level.

Monday’s event brought out a number of Apple partners including Adobe and Lego to talk about the future of Apple’s augmented reality efforts. Here’s what you need to know.

What Is USDZ?

The file format USDZ will now be supported throughout the system, enabling a number of applications. The USDZ asset in the Apple News app, for example, will allow you to display “fully interactive” objects directly in the news story. This functionality even extends to Safari — in a demonstration, Federighi showed a Fender in the online store, before transporting it to the real world.

“With ARKit, Apple is by far the most powerful platform for AR,” said Abnay Parasnis, executive vice president and chief technology officer of Adobe. “There is now a way to deliver AR experiences across the entire iOS experience.”

Adobe has already announced plans to bring native USDZ support to its Creative Cloud suite of software, the creative toolset that includes big names like Photoshop, InDesign, and Lightroom.

What Is ‘Measure’?’

“Measure” is a new Apple-created AR application that shows the power of these new augmented reality features in more practical realms like interior design.

After activating the feature, users can place a mark on an object, draw a line and instantly find out its length. “Measure” will even automatically detect photos and bring up measurements immediately.

ARKit 2 With Shared Experiences

Apple unveiled an update to its “ARKit” set of developer tools. “ARKit 2” introduces improved face tracking, realistic rendering, 3D object detection, as well as persistent and shared experiences.

ARKit 2 introduces true multi-user augmented reality, meaning developers can create experiences that include several people in a more social setup. The team created a sample app, written in the Swift programming language, of a building block world where several players can interact with blocks and observe the action.

Apple is also working with Lego to create an app that takes advantage of this new support, allowing up to four players working in real-time inside a virtual world. The company teased “more” AR-powered Lego experiences “later this year.”

“With 3D object detection, we can recognize our models and bring them to life,” Lego director of innovation Martin Sanders said. “When we combine physical and digital together like this, it really opens up those creative play possibilities.”

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Check out these AR-powered Legos from the WWDC:

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