With apple’s ARKit, developers create apps that transform education and even furniture shopping
Augmented reality technology is transforming the way people learn, play and connect with the things around them.
The launch of iOS 11 made augmented reality available overnight for millions of users, and propelled Apple into the largest AR platform in the world. In the middle of last year, Apple introduced ARKit, which blends digital objects and information with the environment, taking apps far beyond the screen and freeing them to interact with the real world in entirely new ways. ARKit 1.5 was released to developers a month ago and will soon become available to consumers.
AR will be available for millions of iOS devices through ARKit, a framework that brings the experiences of the virtual world into the real world. Through iOS 11 and hardware on iPhones and iPads using the A9 processor and above, people could experience AR on their iPhone SE, iPhone 6s, iPhone 7, iPhone 8, and iPhone X, as well as on iPad.
Jakob Lykkegaard ran a mobile game-developing studio in Bangkok for six months. But when Apple launched ARKit, he jumped in to set up his new company, Lykke Studio, focused only on AR and new technologies. With his three-person team, Lykkegaard introduced an augmented reality puzzle game called AMON – “the god of air” – once Apple launched iPhone 8 and X.
“After Apple launched ARKit in the middle of 2017, I spent three months to develop the game,” he said, noting it has been on the market since September last year.
And now he is working on his third start-up after his first two companies were acquired. The latest focuses on game development. From Thailand he built Juice Cubes, a game that is big on a global scale with more than 28 million downloads.
“I got into developing the AR game because I like new innovation and AR is just the beginning of what will come. I was excited when we got AR everywhere. I want to be first to understand and to learn what we can build with AR and how we can improve it over time as well,” said Lykkegaard.
He believes that in the future all games will eventually come to AR, because it is much better to have something that feels like real life and yet is virtual that people can interact with and learn from and play with. People can play games at museums, and it’s been found that they can then understand more because when they play, it is much easier to learn about the museum displays.
For AMON, Lykkegaard said, he drew on real statues from 24 museums all around the world, using a high-definition laser scan to adapt them for use inside the game.
“We get the actual 3D scan files from the museums, my local Thai 3D artists scale them down and make sure they will work for the mobile phone,” said Lykkegaard.
In playing AMON, players need to walk around the statues to get the puzzle in the right spot. They cannot just sit and play a game any more, but need to be active and move.
Once the statue is reaching completion, history and information about that statue, such as who made it and which museum houses it, will be appear so that players learn more.
“The feedback from players is very good, because an AR game changes the way they interact with the game,” said Lykkegaard.
AMON has now exceeded 40,000 downloads worldwide. There are around 400 million capable of supporting the game, which is a paid app priced at US$3.99 (Bt112.5).
Museums are able to reach a new public as they explore the statues, and the public gets to enjoy learning about the statues while playing the game in their living rooms. They might even feel enticed to visit the museum to check out the real statue.
“We work with both augmented reality and artificial intelligence (AI),” said Lykkegaard. “My studio want to take the very latest technologies and build them into something that consumers can see and figure out how to build from. More games will come out on both AR and AI in the next few months.”
The market is big enough to support his games, and give him space to develop
He has been able to do this because of ARKit. Before that became available, it was not possible to play such sophisticated games without owning very expensive special hardware. Apple’s devices and the AR Kit, he said, made building the games possible and even his mom can play.
“It helps me to save money and time,” said Lykkegaard. “Before ARKit, I needed more than 1,000 engineers to build a game like AMON. Now, we need just a few people.”
Thanyaporn Sriskulpinyo, chief innovation officer and founder at Homeprise, an online interior design and home decoration platform, said that she used Apple’s ARKit to make it easier for people to decorate their home by themselves.
The concept behind Homeprise Real app is to collect furniture products from over 50 local manufacturers nationwide, scanning and turning them into models, and get them out to the marketplace. Once consumers are thinking about buying a new piece of furniture, they can check out the AR-formatted furniture in their own real-life room before making a purchase decision. There are around 4,000 stock keeping units or SKUs available for shopping with the AR experience.
So far the Homeprise Real app has over 1,000 downloads. Thanyaporn said with ARKit, Homeprise can offer virtual furniture objects that users can put down in their real home to see how they would look.
It can help companies increase their sales.
“We partner with top real-estate companies nationwide,” said Thanyaporn. “Currently, we have decorated for over 200 units of condos, townhomes and houses.”
It is a free app, so revenue comes from commissions per transaction from furniture manufacturers.
Homeprise was set up two years ago, following a year in which the company developed AR itself. Once ARKit was launched, Thanyaporn turned to develop AR with that technology, which was user-friendly and made developing AR very easy.
Now, she is planning to transform its other app, Homeprise, into an AR app. Homeprise will focus on offering decoration themes, which were created by over 30 interior designers.
Thanyaporn said the company is preparing to fundraise US$25 million (Bt786 million) to improve the logistics systems for its furniture partners and to further develop new products and services.
From Facebook games and mobile games to AR games, Zac Alcampo, head of Studio Sandbox, said that AR technology will transform the game field.
Since last year, Sandbox Studio has worked with Apple through the ARKit to develop an AR game that they hope will open a new door in activities and game-playing.
Currently, it has two AR games available (developed with ARKit) – the AR Block Party and ARK Saga. A third game is in the pipeline and is being developed with ARKit 1.5. Both are paid apps.
Launched two months ago, AR Block Party is a fun, social, and party game, said Alcampo.
ARK Saga was launched two weeks ago.
“What we want to do is to actually focus on kids’ games. We want to help them develop good hands-and-eyes coordination, problem solving, and get them active,” said Alcampo.
He said ARKit has help pave the way for users to discover easy new ways to explore the device. For example, on AR Block Party, people use the phone as a tool to play a game, while in ARK Saga players take on the role of a director to choose to play in any view of the game they want. With ARKit 1.5, he said, he will develop multi-player AR games.
He said the potential of AR games is really strong, because there are so many mobile games, with over 400 mobile games coming out daily for Android and iOS platforms.
“AR and ARKit changed everything in mobile games … and it is nice to be at the spearhead, to be at the front of development,” said Alcampo. “We found ARKit is the best solution for developing AR.”