There’s been a lot of hype around virtual reality. That’s where you strap on hot, heavy, expensive goggles and look around you in any direction to see a simulated world. It’s great for games, but super isolating.
For my money, augmented reality (AR) is the bigger deal. That’s where you can still see the real world, but the computer superimposes graphics on it. As you look around, the sizes, angles, and distances of the simulated objects smoothly change in real time as though they really exist. (Pokémon Go is an AR app. So is Snapchat when it adds goofy glasses and antennae to your live image.)
Earlier this year, Apple gave AR a huge boost with its release of ARKit, a set of tools for software companies that make it easier to develop AR apps. Using these tools, it took Ikea just 10 weeks to come up with Ikea Place, an app that lets you try out Ikea furniture in your actual home and inspect it from different angles. “Apple has solved things from both a software point of view and a hardware point of view, so they have the full spectrum,” says Michael Valdsgaard, Ikea’s director of digital transformation. “Nobody else has that.”
Last month, Apple released iOS 11, required to use all of the new AR apps— and, in effect, made the iPhone the most common AR platform on Earth.
Now the apps themselves are reaching the app store. Plenty of them are games, of course, and that’s great—but I wanted to see if these apps can actually be useful. Software companies have had only 12 weeks to write these apps, so they’re mostly fairly simple. I thought I’d sample the first wave and give you a report.
Ikea Place (free)
Ikea Place presents you with a catalog of living-room furniture. “We know that people often struggle. They don’t know if they’re picking the right color, the right style,” says Valdsgaard. “It’s an investment, so most people postpone the purchasing decision because they’re not 100 percent confident. We’ve focused on the…