ARKit: How Apple is quietly reinventing the smartphone

ARKit is the new iOS11 feature that could potentially revolutionize the platform. As of today, anyone owning an iPhone 6S or later will be able to run augmented reality apps. In one fell swoop, Apple will create the largest AR platform.

What makes ARKit so powerful?

In short: ARKit takes a lot of work away from the app developers. With ARKit, Apple has released a programming interface that allows developers to insert digital objects into real-world images from the camera. ARKit assumes the task, in order to supplement the depth information of the two-dimensional image of the camera. This is necessary, for example, so that a digital figure appears to actually stand on the street and not just float over an image. This kind of spatial recognition is complex and requires additional sensors – much like Google Tango. ARKit on the other hand, does not.

In addition to spatial environment, ARKit also detects lighting conditions. This is indispensable for realistic, seamless integration of digital objects. ARKit recognizes horizontal surfaces like floors or tables, as well as feature spots (such as objects that stand out).

IMG 0700 ARKit in action / © AndroidPIT

ARKit makes all of this information accessible to developers. With the help of Unity or other 3D engines, an app can then insert objects, and thus supplement reality – that is, create an augmented reality world. In order to minimize latency, your iPhone or iPad must be equipped with an Apple A9 or A10 chip or later. In other words, you’ll need an iPhone 6S or newer, a current generation iPad, or an iPad Pro.

wwdc ar2 ARKit live demo on the WWDC stage. / © Apple, Screenshot by AndroidPIT

ARCore is Google’s solution

ARKit and ARCore are technically quite similar. In the run-up to the ARKit launch, Google was already working on a similar technology – drawing on their previous work on Tango. This rarely uses time-of-flight cameras (i.e. depth sensors) within an AR session. When using a Tango-enabled app, typically only motion and acceleration sensors are used to determine exact positions. Thus, Google was able to quickly adapt the Tango technologies into ARCore. How will things progress with Tango? ARCore is probably the heir and Tango may disappear.

google arcore taco ARCore could be an ARKit competitor. / © Google

That’s why ARKit for augmented reality is also important to Android: key toolkits will support both ARKit as well as ARCore, so the porting effort for the developers will probably be minimal. And the most successful ARKit apps will also be available in 2018 on Android with ARCore.

Great demos with ARKit

Because ARKit is part of the beta version of iOS11, there are already lots of demos that show what ARKit can do. The first major demo event was held more than a week ago in the US. There, media outlets like TechCrunch were able to examine complex AR apps. IKEA and TV channel AMC presented AR apps there, for example. Even well-known children’s book The Very Hungry Caterpillar has made the leap into AR. According to TechCrunch, many of the complex demos took just two or three months to create. This shows how fast content can be provided for ARKit.

Below are some trailer videos of the ARKit apps, both for augmented reality as well as for virtual reality: words are good, but videos are better.

The Walking Dead: Our World

Video: Apple / IKEA (via Techcrunch)

The Very Hungry Caterpillar

Augmented reality changes our smartphone usage

ARKit is impressive but the technology is still in its infancy. However, it’s already clear that augmented reality will become an important part of smartphone features in the coming years.

Practically all of the applications shown here have been developed for iOS11 only. Android users should not despair. With ARCore, they’ll soon get an alternative. Successful apps will find their way onto Android quickly, thanks to the technical similarities. If ARCore proves to be a stark competitor, Google will also be able to make tens of millions of smartphones AR-capable within a short time. We can expect to hear a lot about ARKit apps in the next few months, but in half a year, Android will also receive the most successful apps.

Opinion by Hans-Georg Kluge

Augmented reality will advance smartphone development over the next few years

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These major changes are coming to both platforms. The camera will become a tool for perceiving our environment in a new way. Google has brought together machine learning and AR with Google Lens. Some AR apps will be fun, others will help us stay oriented in foreign cities. Others will open up new horizons for smartphones.

What features would you like to see with AR? Looking forwad to it? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

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From One to 5: How OnePlus is constantly reinventing itself

There are only a few days left until OnePlus pulls its sixth smartphone out of the hat: the OnePlus 5. In this article, we throw a look into the past and present the story of this incredible startup.

It all began in December 2013, when Pete Lau and Carl Pei founded the startup OnePlus. Both worked previously for Oppo. Pete Lau was vice president and involved in equipping the Oppo N1 with the CyanogenMod. As an investor, Oppo was involved from the very beginning. OnePlus set itself the target to create smartphones with a balance of good price and high quality. 

OnePlus One – a shooting star

Even with their first smartphone, OnePlus succeeded in creating a sensation. The OnePlus One called itself a flagship killer. It brought high-end performance while costing only a fraction of the price of top smartphones from Samsung or HTC. The 16 GB model launched for $ 299, and the 64 GB model cost $ 349. The phone used the much celebrated Cyanogen OS as its operating system. 

With a core promise to make high performance affordable, OnePlus certainly delivered. However, the OnePlus One was more of a diamond in the rough. Not everything was perfect, as there were some minor technical issues and a lack of support.

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The OnePlus One was a milestone for its time. 

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The marketing for the device was key: You needed an invitation to buy OnePlus One. This was important for the startup as it could then control sales and production. The invite system also made the device rare, which raised the curiosity of many users. Overnight, the OnePlus became the star of the smartphone scene.

AndroidPIT oneplus history 0061 Six OnePlus devices / © AndroidPIT

OnePlus had to inform its users of its first shock at the end of 2014. When the company bitterly split ways with Cyanogen Inc, it took the software development with it. This became a herculean task. 

OnePlus Two: the experience makes a difference

In order to understand OnePlus, you must first understand the drama surrounding the OnePlus 2. It was conceived as the follow-up to the surprise hit of 2014. It was supposed to be better for the mainstream while carrying the OnePlus glory, delivering high performance for little money. The presentation was also conducted with help from VR, which set OnePlus way ahead of its time.

Of course the company needed the best chip in their device, and this came from Qualcomm: the notorious Snapdragon 810. But this had the reputation of being somewhat temperamental, and OnePlus’s attempt to sell the installed chips as part of their second and improved 810 generation didn’t help much. Dropping near field communication (NFC) was even more damaging and the company’s enthusiasts could barely cope. The frustrating invite system did the rest. Even its customer service brought fresh criticism on OnePlus. 

androidpit OnePlus 2 hero 9 OnePlus 2 / © ANDROIDPIT

Only a year and a half later did co-founder Carl Pei admit in an interview that OnePlus 2 was a failure. But OnePlus learned much from these mistakes. Looking back, he conceded that the company had drawn the wrong conclusions from the success of OnePlus One. This initial success was also due to luck and good timing. The problems surrounding OnePlus Two were an important experience for the startup. 

OnePlus X – the experiment 

In fall 2015, OnePlus dared an exciting experiment. How would a smartphone run if it sat in the middle of the price range, but boasted high-end hardware of the past year? The answer is OnePlus X. 

Androidpit Oneplus x vs oneplus 2 2 2015 OnePlus smartphones – 2 and X / © ANDROIDPIT

The design differed from the previous two models. The backside could be chosen in glass or ceramic and the design appeared generally very high-quality. But the OnePlus X had its own destiny. A Marshmallow update appeared, but the OnePlus X couldn’t receive another Nougat update. This is because Google requires the support of the Vulkan graphics interface for Android Nougat, which is incompatible with Snapdragon 801’s graphic chip.

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The OnePlus X was a brilliantly designed smartphone. 

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OnePlus 3: the gloves come off 

OnePlus’s reputation had suffered a little. This was not least because of some questionable marketing campaigns – ‘Smash the Past’, for example, which accompanied the launch of OnePlus One. Users were encouraged to break their smartphones in order to receive a new OnePlus One. It quickly became clear that this was way too extreme for the community. OnePlus immediately changed course, changing its conditions so that users could donate their old phones instead.

In this context, 2016 became the year of new beginnings. The OnePlus 3 could impress on all levels. It was defined by high performance, high-quality metal housing and a familiar value for the money.

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The OnePlus 3 was the optimal smartphone for its price

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AndroidPIT oneplus 3 6704 The OnePlus 3 brought its manufacturer back on the path to success / © AndroidPIT

Almost a follow-up: the OnePlus 3T

Somewhat surprisingly, the OnePlus 3T was released in fall. It was a reboot of the OnePlus 3 featuring the somewhat faster Snapdragon 821 and a better front camera. The phone wasn’t so much an upgrade for OnePlus 3 owners, but rather a contender against the fresh competition of the season. 

AndroidPIT OnePlus3 soft gold vs gray silver 6643 Little aesthetic difference between the OnePlus 3 and 3T / © AndroidPIT

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As a rehash, the OnePlus 3T was unnecessary 

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2017: OnePlus 5

The crowning achievement of OnePlus is here. Ahead of its launch, OnePlus emphasized that the OnePlus 5 would conquer new territory. Together with DxOMark, OnePlus has optimized its camera. A Snapdragon 835 powers the device. A first glance at the design reveals that OnePlus has economized the idea of a smartphone. For the first time, OnePlus uses a dual camera setup for perfect photos.

‘Never Settle’ is the official motto of OnePlus. This means to never be content with the status quo, and always try out new things. The OnePlus 5 also features the slogan ‘Focus On What Matters’. This could simply refer to the smartphone’s new camera abilities, but in a broader sense, this may also mean that experiments like the OnePlus X belong to the past and that the company has refocused on what is essential.

We’re excited to see what OnePlus has in store for us next. What experience have you had with a OnePlus smartphone? Let us know!

We have a cooperation with OnePlus. However, this article has been created without influence and represents the opinion of the editor.

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