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Apple plans to make iOS the largest augmented reality platform around, overnight

Pokemon Go was undeniably one of 2016’s biggest gaming success stories, offering a wholly new mobile experience that hinged on location-based gameplay and augmented reality technology. Today at WWDC 2017, Apple unveiled ARKit, a new platform that will allow developers to integrate computer vision into their projects with greater ease than ever before.

Apple’s senior vice president of software engineering, Craig Federighi, debuted ARKit with a live demonstration on stage. He used an iPhone to run a test application that could place virtual objects on a surface in front of him at the touch of a button.

The coffee cup that Federighi set on the table remained in place as he moved around with his iPhone in hand, without the kind of stuttering or unwanted rotation that can break immersion in this kind of experience. He went on to add a lamp to the scene, which cast a realistic shadow from the coffee cup to demonstrate the way virtual objects can interact.

ARKit will provide fast, stable motion tracking that developers can build into their apps. It’s capable of seeking out planes like tables and floors, it can estimate how much ambient light is in the vicinity, and it’s capable of balancing the scale of various objects to ensure the scene is congruent.

The utility will apparently work alongside third-party frameworks like Unity and Unreal as well as Apple’s own SceneKit to give developers more freedom in their creative process.

Apple is bullish that ARKit will become the largest AR platform in the world overnight, thanks to the hundreds of millions of iPads and iPhones already out in the wild, already capable of running content created using the tools. The company has already been working with some big-name partners, with IKEA and Lego both having experimented with the platform.

Meanwhile, Niantic has used ARKit to make Pokemon Go even more immersive. The way that Pokemon are rendered in real-world environments has been improved, integrating them into their environment with a greater sense of place and space.

Wingnut AR, a sister studio of Peter Jackson’s movie production company, then demonstrated its usage of the technology on stage. A standard table top was transformed into a sci-fi battle, with explosions and artillery covering the surface and spilling out into the ‘skies’ above.

ARKit is set to launch as part of iOS 11 later this year.

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