This past year, we got a taste of what developers of mobile apps in Augmented Reality could do with Apple's ARKit, and most people had never heard of Animojis , Google's AR platform was still tango. Snapchat had just introduced his World Lens AR experience. Most of the mobile AR experiences in the wild were mark-based offers from Blippar and Zappar or generic Pokémon GO knock-offs.
Last year's NR50, released before the launch of ARKit, only two of the top 1
Cook arrives at number one this year, with five others taking mobile AR in the categorized top 10 overall of the NR30
What a difference a year makes
In just 12 months we've seen how mobile AR grows at breakneck speed. Since Apple launched its AR toolkit, users have downloaded more than 13 million ARKit apps from the App Store. Previous apps have not been updated with ARKit features. Apple has already updated its platform and will introduce even more new features to the public with the release of ARKit 2.0 this fall. Last year, iPhone X also introduced a depth-sensitive camera and AR Animojis that captured the imagination of users.
Google completed the tango project, but followed Apple's lead by launching a platform with even more capabilities than ARKit 1.0 – ARCore. 19659003] Snapchat has expanded its AR platform with developer tools and advanced features, extending its AR experience to advertising and e-commerce capabilities. Facebook followed and duplicated Snapchat's AR features on every corner.
More extensive experience is just around the corner, as AR cloud platforms promise not only shared and persistent experiences, but also content that reacts more realistically to objects from reality. (This is occlusion, baby.)
Asked what AR's most important achievement was last year, ARKit and ARCore were the consensus of our NR30 winners. Despite all of its advancements, Mobile AR still feels very early on, until a small, portable hardware for AR experiences hits the market. In other words, while phone-based AR is now paramount, AR, which requires keeping a phone in front of your face, becomes outdated before we know it.
But now House Mobile is ruling the AR kingdom, and here are the gentlemen to whom we owe allegiance in 2018.
Tim Cook – Apple
Back in 2011, just months before Apple's co-founder Steve Jobs died, Tim Cook (pictured in the upper part of this article) took on the role of CEO. In doing so, he faced an almost impossible task: following one of the biggest CEO runs in the entire tech history, starting with the Mac and rising to unprecedented heights with the iPhone. While the iPad was struggling to gain a foothold in the market, the company soon introduced the Apple Watch, its first portable computing device. At first, the skeptics chanted it and framed it as an experiment that could be considered Cook's first major misstep since the founder's death.
But once again the critics were wrong. Only this time it was Cook who led the public towards a brand-new category of computers (smartwatches) that other competitors had not popularized despite their launch. And now, in 2018, Cook is facing the abyss of yet another computer revolution: Augmented Reality.
First unveiled in June 2017 at the Worldwide Developers Conference in California, Apple's ARKit is now the most pervasive immersive computing platform that is made available to millions of users on iPhones and iPads around the world. And the TrueDepth camera on the iPhone X has quickly normalized the process of mapping and merging the real with the virtual world. And like the original Mac, the first iPhone and the recently acquired Apple Watch, there are still some AR skeptics wondering why Apple is focusing on such a niche category. Nonetheless, we now have the innovations of the iPhone X and ARKit in our daily lives, and the rumors are starting to filter out: Apple may be preparing to release a pair of AR glasses. If that's true, it could be the perfect complement to its wristband accessory, and the last step in getting Apple everything done.
Of course, other AR hardware manufacturers have shown us how hard it is to do something good, much less small enough to fit in the frame of traditional glasses. But one thing is for sure, after all we've seen from the company over the past few decades, nobody will be surprised if Apple reveals the coolest, most fashionable AR glasses we've ever seen. In May, we learned that, despite its high price, the AR-friendly iPhone X became the world's best-selling smartphone with 345 million units sold as of Q1 2018. Apple still does not have the overall sales figures for the Apple Watch Most reports estimate that it remains at the top among all competitors. What happens when Apple combines the capabilities of the TrueDepth camera with a well thought-out portable device like the Apple Watch? Probably a hit in another, blue sky category. Cook is not quite there, but all signs indicate that his team with laser focus is working on it.
In the meantime, ARKit has managed to provide developers with a powerful platform that amazes immersive mobile computing experiences. Sure, there are now just over 2,000 ARKit-based apps on the App Store. But early iPhone developers still remember the days when creating an iPhone app was a Crapshoot in terms of ROI. Today, developing an ARKit app that will become a mainstream hit may look like a farce, but at least the development for ARKit is likely to pay off today when it's time to develop your Apple Glasses AR app.
And if the latest rumors are true, this day could come sooner than many have imagined. Stay tuned, Cook is developing a magic trick bigger than anything ever done by Jobs, blurring the boundaries between reality and virtuality wherever you go.
Evan Spiegel – Snap Inc.
Evan Spiegel, Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Snap, Inc., is a pioneer in the field of mobile augmented reality, and his company has created a platform that today is Apple and Google in space challenges.
Mirror and co-founder Bobby Murphy, both students at Stanford University when they first met, launched Snapchat as ephemeral messaging in September 2011 App. Within a year, Mirror Stanford left to run the business full-time. Now, Snapchat is a subsidiary of Snap, Inc., which went public in 2017.
It was not until 2015 that Snapchat began using augmented reality lenses, beginning with front camera effects through facial recognition. Following the acquisition of Cimagine and its markerless augmented reality technology in 2016, Snapchat introduced World Lenses, which placed digital content like the "world's first AR superstar," the dancing hot dog, in the user's environment. Today, technology is one of the top three priorities in their 2018 business plan.
Paradoxically, the Spiegel app, launched as an antithesis to Facebook, is now hitting the social media giant head-on as a competitor in social augmented reality space. This competition is sure to go into the future with augmented reality wearables. While Snap's Spectacles does not yet have augmented reality capabilities, the company is working to introduce a Smartglass version of the product in 2019 that puts the company in the same arena as Facebook and its Oculus division, not to mention Rumors spreading rumors from Apple and Google's next attempt in the category.
Hugo Barra – Facebook
Looking at his summary, Hugo Barra has relatively little experience in augmented reality technically. However, it is his position as vice president of VR for Facebook and his track record in developing hardware and software products that make him one of the industry's most important faces.