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Grow Your Business Technology

Apple's ARKit 2 Means Co-workers Can Collaborate in Mixed Reality

Apple ARKit 2 multi-player game video demo
In a demo video, Apple shows how ARKit features can be used in multiplayer games. / Credit: Apple.com

Augmented reality changes the way users interact with the world around them by displaying 3D images over an existing environment. Apple gave every person with an iPhone the ability to enter augmented reality with ARKit. The latest generation of this technology – ARKit 2 – offers more features and drives AR forward.

AR has found its way into several industries, such as manufacturing, as a solution for overhauling mundane processes. Such AR headsets as Google Glass, provide a hands-free way for working in mixed reality. As AR has developed, business use cases have grown.

With the latest release of ARKit 2, Apple is providing businesses and developers with an improved platform to create AR applications. The latest version of ARKit, which will be officially available for use in September 2018, includes features like a new file format, persistent experiences and improved object tracking. These developments allow users to collaborate and interact in the same AR environment, which was not possible in the past. The potential for collaboration in AR could have endless use cases for business.

"Immersive technologies are the next interface," said Samuel Huber, founder and CEO of Admix.in, a mixed reality advertising company. "ARKit is a perfect stepping stone for businesses to understand how this new interface works, and start developing useful AR content – first on mobile, later on headsets."

Business can drive AR forward by creating new applications and introducing creative and new ways to use technology. Understanding some of the new developments, as well as some initial steps to creating an app with ARKit, can help business owners and developers visualize new projects.

The biggest announcement with ARKit 2 is the ability for users to collaborate in a mixed reality environment. This has endless applications for gamers, and Apple has already partnered with companies like Lego to create unique gaming environments. For businesses, however, the shared experiences mean co-workers can collaborate on a project in AR. A home renovation project, for example, means multiple contractors and the home owner could view potential adjustments and changes before they occur.

These shared experiences are also persistent, meaning they will exist even after the application is closed. This allows users to, essentially, save whatever work they have and pick up from where they left off in the future. In the case of a renovation project, the homeowner could view construction in AR a few days after it was created by the contractors.

"Shared experience means that AR is no longer a solitary experience," Huber said. "This opens up AR to multiple applications, such as collaboration tools, education or training apps where the content can be discovered by multiple users at once."

Apple collaborated with Pixar on a new open file format: usdz. This open file format will allow AR sharing in Apple apps like Messages, Safari and Mail. Apple also introduce improve image tracking and 3D image creation.

Creating an application in ARKit 2 is a task for a software developer. Apple provides some instructions on its website for ARKit, but prior coding knowledge and experience will help you create your program quickly and efficiently. If you're looking to get started, there are a few important steps to take.

First, you'll need to set up an Apple developer account. This is a free account that registers you as an official developer on the platform. ARKit 2 can only run on iOS 12, which has been officially unveiled but won't see a full-scale release until fall 2018. If you're eager to get working, you can apply to Apple's Beta Software Program by signing up here.

Once you're set up with the right software requirements, you can launch the latest version of Xcode. Apple's AR apps have to be written in Swift, the company's own coding language. It provides an example of this language and an ARKit 2 experience in SwiftShot, a sling-shot game in AR.

ARkit 2 may not officially be here yet, but the potential for this technology is very real. Huber said ARKit provides business owners with the opportunity to develop applications that can be used on any iPhone with iOS 11 or greater. The first iteration of ARKit laid the groundwork for augmented reality, and ARKit 2 takes things a step further by adding the collaboration element.

Matt D'Angelo

Matt D'Angelo is a contributor covering small business for business.com and Business News Daily. After graduating from James Madison University with a degree in journalism, Matt gained experience as a copy editor and writer for newspapers and various online publications.