Opinion: Apple helps bring augmented reality to the masses

Apple launches augmented reality tool at Developers Conference getty
"The industry has been waiting for Apple to set the table," tech analyst Tom Mainelli says. Photo credit: Getty

OPINION: Think of augmented reality and most people will picture Pokémon Go. Thanks to Apple and some Kiwis, that might not be the case for much longer.

The tech giant has announced a new augmented reality (AR) tool for developers to help bring AR to the masses.

"The industry has been waiting for Apple to set the table," tech analyst Tom Mainelli told me.

"It makes it possible for the average consumer who owns vintage iPad or iPhone to experience AR and I think developers are really going to embrace this technology. It's a big move."

He's right. It's the talk of the town this week at the WorldWide Developers Conference in San Jose, California, helped no doubt by an impressive display at Apple's keynote yesterday from Sir Peter Jackson's team WingNut Film Production.

It unveiled a first look at what's in the works at its WingNutAR augmented reality division.

The demo was shown off by WingNutAR creative director Alasdair Coull and featured a very cool sci-fi based aerial attack at a remote space outpost.  

Sir Peter couldn't be at the event but he did release a statement.

"Augmented Reality allows storytellers to generate digital creations that appear in the real world. I'm very excited about the endless creative potential of this new technology," he said.

The plan is for WingNutAR to have its first commercial AR content available in the App store later this year.  

Of course, it isn't just about gaming. Layering virtual images over real-life scenes can be used for other applications such as shopping or industrial design. The list is endless and Kiwi developers at the event are definitely excited.

"For us there's huge potential because AR can be utilised in almost anything, anything you can think of where you can hold up a phone and place some additional information or graphics on the screen," said Nic Gibbens, co-founder of Wellington-based firm PaperKite, known for apps such as the All Blacks app and BPMe.

"We're interested in anything we can do that enables peoples to have really extraordinary experiences."

His views were shared by Karl Von-Randow, co-founder of Auckland's Cactus Lab and one of the men behind the popular app Camera+. He hasn't been that keen on AR up until now.

"Previously when you've had to do AR you have to use a variety of third party tools.

"Maybe I'm a little bit nervous that clients will ask us how to do AR apps now but now we'll know how to it."

Emma is in San Jose for the WorldWide Developers Conference courtesy of Apple.