For the last several years, in the days before ARKit, it has been a mad dash for small augmented reality (AR) startups, like ours, to build in-house technology that delivers useful and interactive AR experiences to users. When our team decided to build our augmented reality interior decorating app, Room Remix, we spent the bulk of our time stretching the available technology to build a product that helps users do room planning, come up with interior decorating ideas, and buy furniture and decor, all using only their iPhone.
The resulting application of Room Remix is an experience which lets users quickly and easily visualize and shop for thousands of furniture items from online retailers, such as Wayfair and Amazon, in their own home. We’ve introduced some cool features not found elsewhere, such as being able to share scenes for others to edit. The simplicity and functionality of Room Remix has helped give it the reputation as one of the best interior design apps in the App Store. But still, we know that our application largely resembles that of a souped up car, that doesn’t quite have a big enough engine to begin with. But that’s all about to change.
ARKit is coming!
What is Apple ARKit?
In June, Apple announced that they would be releasing ARKit with IOS 11. ARKit is a developer framework for IOS 11 that allows apps like Room Remix to blend digital objects, such as furniture, with the environment around you. This enables mixed-reality apps to work with no cumbersome printable AR markers or other restrictions that have traditionally made augmented reality experiences difficult or undesirable to both build and use. It allows us to place virtual objects in live imagery of the real world in a realistic and user friendly way. Apps using ARKit will be publicly available with the release of IOS11 sometime this fall.
Why is ARKit a game changer?
What ARKit means for the mass of startups, such as ours, is a consolidation and enhancement of the AR engines available to developers, which many applications utilize. Instead of having to build so much custom technology to power our applications, startups can now use ARKit to do much of the heavy lifting. This means developers can focus more on delivering great user experiences and leave more of the AR technicalities to Apple.
What does ARKit mean for mobile applications like Room Remix?
Up until now, the main technical challenges of Room Remix have been to exactly detect floors and estimate distances in order to accurately scale 3D models of furniture. Currently, users can place furniture on floors within Room Remix, but not on walls and ceilings. ARKit does all these things, quite impressively, by finding and tracking horizontal surfaces. So, in one fell swoop several of the key technical challenges we have faced are suddenly off our plate.
What this means is we no longer have to worry about producing algorithms that will properly scale furniture and wall decorations and we can instead focus on creating the best 3D models of wall art and other wall accessories, which people will want to view in their homes and ultimately buy. Another feature which will be made much easier with the introduction of ARKit is the virtual elimination of furniture in one’s own home. It’s hard to decorate a room that is full of old furniture. While we already have a solution for digitally removing the unwanted furniture to create a ‘blank slate’ for decorating purposes, ARKit will make that removal process much faster, easier, and more automated.
For the average observer of technology, the introduction of ARKit may seem like just one more esoteric tech announcement. But from the perspective of a startup that is working on this technology every day, we believe it’s a paradigm shift that will free up startups like ours to produce more powerful, impactful technology much more efficiently.
It’s becoming difficult to imagine the days before an Uber could pick you up in just minutes, or Amazon had two-day delivery to our homes. Likewise, we believe that, before long, it will be hard to remember the days before online shoppers could instantly visualize any buyable product using AR technology. ARKit is a big step in making this a reality and Room Remix will be among the tools that help users visualize such buyable products.
We are already hard at work integrating ARKit into Room Remix. We invite you to check out how far we’ve stretched Room Remix with the iPhones of today, so that you can see how things will change once ARKit hits in the next few months.
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