03 August 2017

Super Ventures Blog: “Why is ARKit better than the alternatives?”

All the above use the same VIO system (Tango & ARKit even use the same code base originally developed by FlyBy!). Neither Hololens or Tango use the Depth Camera for tracking (though I believe they are starting to integrate it to assist in some corner cases). So why is ARKit so good?

The answer is that ARKit isn’t really any better than Hololens (I’d even argue that Hololens’ tracker is the best on the market) but Hololens hardware isn’t widely available. Microsoft could have shipped the Hololens tracker in a Windows smartphone, but I believe they chose not to for commercial reasons (I.e. it would have added a fair bit of cost & time to calibrate the sensors for a phone that would sell in low volumes, and a MSFT version of ARKit would not by itself convince developers to switch from iOS/Android)

Google also could easily have shipped Tango’s VIO system in a mass market Android phone over 12 months ago, but they also chose not to. If they did this, then ARKit would have looked like a catch up, instead of a breakthrough. I believe (without hard confirmation) that this was because they didn’t want to have to go through a unique sensor calibration process for each OEM, where each OEMs version of Tango worked not as well as others, and Google didn’t want to just favor the handful of huge OEMs (Samsung, Huawei etc.) where the device volumes would make the work worthwhile.

Matt Miesnieks

I’ve seen way too much excitement around ARKit on Twitter since Apple announced it and not enough useful demos.

I think there are two key questions developers should answer before investing in new technologies:

  • Can I build something that provides value to customers?

    I’m not seeing much in this area yet. Camera overlays were available years ago, SkyView for example does something very similar to augmented reality, and last year Pokemon Go became a missive hit with current smartphone technology. If you’re rebuilding an app from scratch specifically to work with ARKit, you’re in effect reducing your target audience to supported Apple devices (which I assume will be last year’s iPhones and above, or even just the yet unreleased 2017 models!). Focus on the customer, not on the cool new technology.

  • Can I build on that value to earn money?

    Something that’s increasingly hard in any ecosystem, as people are expecting apps to be free most of the time. A good example was the introduction of the Apple Watch: developers were also enthusiastic about the new platform, a new shiny toy to play with. But then users decided the Watch is better suited to light uses like delivering notifications and fitness tracking, and many companies ended up removing their apps from the Store because nobody is using them.

I know from experience that it’s fun to work on something new – I used to do that with my blog design – to learn a new skill and see it applied in the real world. But as a business, you need to balance that against your long-term goals and your customer needs.

You demanded it, I built it. PCalc in AR!

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