If There’s A Killer App For Apple’s AR Tech, It Won’t Be Ikea Shopping

By Mark Sullivan , June 19, 2017

I hope Apple’s flavor of augmented reality is more interesting than just helping me picture new Ikea stuff in my living room.

And yet Ikea appears to be the first marquee partner out talking about apps it’s developing on Apple’s new ARKit augmented reality development platform.

Ikea exec Michael Valdsgaard said his company has a 150-person “innovation team” in its hometown of Älmhult, Sweden working on the AR app, and another 20-person team creating the 3D, 360-degree images of the furniture products pictured in the app.

Tim Cook talked about the Ikea partnership during a recent Bloomberg interview. Ikea was mentioned as a partner during the announcement of ARKit at WWDC on June 5. Ikea says its ARKit-powered app will launch in the fall with the launch of iOS 11.

The most interesting and fun augmented reality app we’ve seen to date is Pokémon Go. The arrival of ARKit raised hopes that a whole new group of developers would be enabled and inspired to create new and cool AR experiences. AR apps for fitness and health, apps for learning and discovery, apps for travel.

ARKit’s existence has only been public knowledge for two weeks, so it’s too early to judge how well developers will leverage its potential once iOS 11 ships this fall. But the earliest examples of iOS 11 AR apps we’re seeing on the consumer side are apps for shopping. And other examples include commercial AR apps that do things like help a field service rep put an air conditioning unit motor back together.

New research from IDC says augmented reality headsets will sell in the order of 25 million by 2021. More interesting is the split between AR headsets for commercial use and those for consumer use. IDC believes 20.5 million (or 83.3%) will be for commercial use, while just 4.1 million (or 16.7%) will be for consumer use.

While the ARKit apps like the one Ikea is building will run on phones and tablets rather than headsets, at first, the IDC research shows that most of the energy in the AR field is focused on the technology’s business applications.

Google’s competing AR development platform, Tango, is apparently also being used mainly for shopping apps. Google has already demonstrated Tango apps that place new products in a home, so Ikea’s concept is nothing new. At Google’s I/O developer conference in May, the company announced a new slant on Tango with Visual Positioning Service (VPS), which can create something like GPS mapping for indoors. But the use case given was, again, about shopping. Google showed how Lowe’s shoppers will be able to use VPS and Tango running on a phone to guide them to a specific tool within the store.

Don’t get me wrong, I believe developers will eventually come up with some cool, non-shopping apps based on ARKit. In fact they’ve already posted some promising samples on YouTube.

The first wave of augmented reality development is focused on shopping and business applications.

I hope Apple’s flavor of augmented reality is more interesting than just helping me picture new Ikea stuff in my living room.


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