The entire tech world and untold millions of consumers are eagerly awaiting the unveiling of a new iPhone, perhaps as soon as next month. The latest device is expected to be called the iPhone 8, though some are referring to it as iPhone X, given that it will mark the 10th anniversary of the original iPhone’s release. Because of that anniversary, people also have higher expectations than usual. The iPhone 7 brought about only incremental upgrades (though the water and dust-resistant features were a hit), and this time people are hoping for a more drastic change.
Rumors are all over the place as far as what the iPhone 8 will specifically be like, but a general picture is starting to emerge. It seems as if more of the face of the phone will be devoted to the screen, with reduced or even eliminated bezel space. There are also persistent rumours that the home button may disappear entirely, with a fingerprint sensor (and perhaps even retina scans and facial recognition) built into the screen instead. We’ll undoubtedly also hear about spec adjustments improving speaker and camera quality and making performance faster. And who knows—there may even be physical design components no one saw coming.
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But as much interest as there is in the iPhone 8 it might not actually be Apple’s 2017 headliner when we look back in a few years. As some have argued, Apple’s next big thing isn’t its next iPhone—it’s ARKit. This is the software development tool that Apple has already released to developers, and it’s allowing them to create incredible experiences. We’ve known for a while that Apple is focusing heavily on augmented reality (or AR) for the near future, and ARKit is the result of at least part of that focus. Apple is also expected to unveil a hardware component at some point, likely in the form of facial gear that closely resembles Google Glass. But for now, ARKit is functioning with iPhones, and we’ve already seen some incredible demos with massive implications for the future.
The 5 Most Interesting ARKit Demos You Should Try
1. Space Invaders
It’s hard to come up with any data to back up the assertion because the game has existed on many different platforms and in several different forms, but Space Invaders is one of the more popular games of all time. It’s really more of a concept than an individual game, but the assertion stands. Something about blasting away waves of simple cartoon aliens is endlessly appealing.
Projects based on this sort of game have been floated for AR and VR for some time now, but we recently saw a very entertaining demo. It was showcased in an article at The Verge about a few new iOS 11 AR experiences, including a virtual fidget spinner (which doesn’t exactly seem like a game changer) and an AR BB-8 (as in the droid from Star Wars: The Force Awakens). The demo of the Space Invaders game (possibly called “World Invaders”) is silly but enjoyable, showing a user walking around an office space blasting little yellow aliens floating around the area.
2. Urban Planning
This isn’t the name of a specific app, but it’s a fascinating idea that could emerge from ARKit. It’s also one that isn’t just related to gaming or entertainment. We got the idea from Virtual Architectures and the project “The Virtual London Platform,” which is just what it sounds like. Using ARKit, the program sets up a virtual table with an exact virtual model of a city (in the case of the demo that was put out on Vimeo, London). The user can then zoom in and out, select different elements of the city to highlight, and make adjustments.
Many people’s first thought might be that this is a promising indication if city and world building apps that could be used for entertainment, and that may very well be the case. By pulling data from Google Maps and other programs, ARKit apps may be able to bring about new, realistic versions of these types of games. However, in the case of The Virtual London Platform, the idea appears to be to use the app for legitimate urban planning exercises, and possibly even for simulations of disasters and other events.
3. The Machines
This is an action-packed and beautiful idea that was put forward by Directive Games. Built with ARKit and Unreal Engine 4, it’s a battle arena and real-time strategy game that effectively turns a tabletop into a battle scene, complete with vertical buildings and towers, varied terrain, and large mechanized infantry units shooting at one another. On a screen, it wouldn’t look like much more than a slightly better-looking version of a typical RTS. But it takes on stunning new life when it’s projected onto a real world surface. On its own, The Machines is a really cool demo—but it’s particularly interesting because it’s one of the first successful indications of what tabletop gaming could look like in AR.
This is one a lot of people are already aware of because it was one of the earlier popular demos on VR equipment. The most popular next generation versions of Minecraft will likely be those that come out on this type of equipment. It’s still worth noting that there is a version of the game that’s been designed using ARKit.
The interesting thing about this game on ARKit is that it can be zoomed in or out for small or large creations. Demos have shown people creating tiny structures and worlds on countertops, but also creating making big ones in back yards. For now, it looks like Minecraft on ARKit is as big or small as you want to make it, according to your space. It’ll be a different game than what we currently enjoy on apps and consoles, but it could be every bit as engaging—especially for children.
5. Inter-dimensional Portals
We’re also not looking at a particular app here, but rather a concept—and one of the most incredible demos we’ve seen yet on ARKit. The demo comes from a French consulting firm called Nedd and shows the creation of a portal through the screen of a phone. Basically, we see a door to another (virtual) world pop up in the middle of an urban alley. The user walks through this door and into a full, 3D virtual environment—and when he turns around, the door shows the real world behind him.
This is the stuff of sci-fi movies, and in fact is very close to the idea presented in Stephen King’s Dark Tower series, which was just recently turned into a major film. It holds potential not only for an immersive experience or video game, but also for storytelling, or brief narrative experiences like some of those we’ve already started to see put out by mobile game developers.
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