red escape

Section \ Development


Is AR Kit poised for a breakthrough?

Is augmented reality really going to be as big as Tim Cook thinks it is? At WWDC last year it wowed the audience and had people in a frenzy. Fast forward a few months and the reception noticeably cooled after iOS 11 saw its public release. However, it received a shot in the arm this past week with the announcement of the latest version of AR Kit.

In a very un-Apple move, the company detailed what to expect in the upcoming iOS 11.3 update due out this Spring. One of the most important, and likely overlooked components, is AR Kit 1.5. While features like iMessage in iCloud or new Animoji will get users to upgrade, developers are poised to receive a far more functional version of AR Kit than what shipped in iOS 11.

That’s not to say anything bad about the AR Kit team – quite the opposite in fact. They have done a remarkable job in upping the quality of AR content and have done so in a relatively short amount of time.

The History of AR Kit

However, I’m sure the following story is all too familiar to many devs. When the iOS 11 betas were released, my first thought was “What can I do with AR?”. The demos were impressive and Tim Cook had repeatedly talked the tech up in the media. Once developers got their hands on the tech, the limits became more clear – and unfortunately they rendered my plans for AR Kit moot (and surely many other developers).

AR Kit 1.0 only supported horizontal planes, meaning the software could sense floors, tables and other flat surfaces. However it could only sense those surfaces – there was no vertical surface detection, so objects like walls were invisible to AR Kit.

In AR Kit 1.5 that has changed.

AR Kit – The Next Generation

While they didn’t bill this as version 2.0, it easily qualifies. The star of course in this 1.5 update is vertical surface detection – walls, doors and the like are now fair game. This will extend the capabilities of AR Kit exponentially, bringing a whole new generation of apps that were impossible previously.

Some other big improvements include an improved ability to map irregularly shaped surfaces like circular tables, a resolution bump from 720p to 1080p and support for auto-focus.

Interestingly, Apple also mentioned support for interactive detection of signs. Direct from the press release :

Using advanced computer vision techniques to find and recognize the posit...

Read Full Story

Why a Siri API is Inevitable
With WWDC approaching, rumors are beginning to swirl about what what Apple will unveil. One of the most persistent rumors I’ve seen over and over again is that Siri will finally make her debut on the Mac. And while Siri for Mac is very likely coming at some point, I think the more important question for Apple’s long term goals is “will we see an API for Siri ?“. As much as it pains me to write these words, the Mac is Apple’s past. I don’t think it’s going anywhere for the foreseeable future, but the system is based upon a far more open and uncontrollable philosophy. While experienced users like myself and (probably) you reading this love that about the Mac, casual users have no need for that power. Apple is wisely catering to the larger audience and obviously moving towards a more locked down future with iOS. Undoubtedly iOS will open up more over time. Apple has already solved a lot of problems that existed on Macs and PCs by tightening down the screws on iOS. The flip side of that coin means the Mac, in it’s Wild West state, is a great place for Apple to experiment. Bringing Siri to the Mac is smart, if not unsurprising. Bringing an API for Siri along with it would be a genius move that would placate those begging for third party integration, while giving Apple a chance to learn and refine the API before unleashing it on iOS in the future. The Mac is the most open platform Apple makes; and likely the last major open platform they ever will. Just like with countless lessons Apple has learned before, they start on the Mac, refine their approach, and solve the problems in a creative way on iOS. A Siri API for Mac could give Apple valuable insight into creating the far more lucrative Siri API for WatchOS. That’s right, not the iPhone, the Apple Watch is their ace in the hole. For all of it’s shortcomings, Apple Watch is a very nice device. Complexity and input are it’s Achilles heel. Due to their limited scope, bouncing between multiple apps is not quite as fluid as it is on the iPhone. Any Apple Watch owner can attest however, where the Apple Watch truly shines is interacting with Siri. Using the buttonless “Hey Siri” command to invoke the personal assistant and receive quick information, without ever touching the device, is infinitely useful. The problems with Siri (and the device in general, but that’s another article) on the Apple Watch are two-fold; speed and access to more information. As always, time will solve the first prob...

Read Full Story

A Whole New Gold Rush
Call me naive – or worse – but I am pretty excited about the future being an Apple developer. This might seem kind of crazy considering iPhone sales are down and Wall Street is, of course, predicting Apple’s imminent demise (hint : they still had like $10 billion in profit.. I think they can make ends meet). iPad sales are also down again and we don’t really know too much about Watch or TV sales. Nobody is screaming from the hills how their Apple Watch app made $50,000 in a day ala Flappy Bird though. But for developers who are really in it for the long haul and not trying to score a quick hit and sell, this represents a great opportunity. The iPhone is an embarrassment of riches when it comes to quality software. Most apps, including Google and Microsoft apps, are often made first and/or best on the iPhone. Every developer wants to be there. Apple’s other iOS based platforms haven’t enjoyed the same. And this is where I tell you as a developer I’m optimistic about my future. Apple has plenty of money to keep pumping into these platforms and all indications are that they will for many years. It behooves them to have this ecosystem, if only to prop up the iPhone. These other products are fantastic devices though and they will, through updates of both hardware and software, continue to evolve. What they lack is killer apps – and that is where we come in to the equation. If as a developer, you can dream up an app that takes advantage of these devices and materially improves users lives, productivity, fun, health, etc. people will buy these devices to use your app. Android Wear and TV suffer from the same problem, and Windows Phone is another perfect example – there’s no imagination in the software. If people were dreaming up amazing Android Wear apps I’d have one of those strapped on my wrist right now, but they’re not. If Windows Phone had apps that mattered to me I could only get on that platform, I’d at least consider it! Right now a Windows Phone isn’t even an option to me. People Buy Hardware to Run Software Game consoles have worked this way since I was a little kid – you either bought a Sega to play Sonic or a Nintendo to play Mario. People buy hardware to run software. That makes me approach this with so much optimism – no one has figured it out yet. There are nice things about Apple TV, Apple Watch and iPad, but as someone who uses all five Apple platforms (Mac, iPhone, iPad, Watch, TV) generally on a daily basis, the last th...

Read Full Story

Hopping on the Swift bandwagon
Over the past few months I’ve wrestled with a topic I’m sure many of you have as well – When is the right time to learn/move to Swift for existing Objective C app developers? I’ve read lots of posts where developers have jumped whole-heartedly into Swift and never looked back, dealing with inconveniences and changing features as the cost of getting in on the ground floor. Likewise, many other developers have stuck with tried and true Objective C that they know. The second option also has the benefit of being battle-tested as well as still being fully supported by Apple. That being said, Apple obviously sees Swift as the (not-too distant) future; they have stopped providing documentation and sample code for newer products in Obj-C in the developer site. I had held off learning much about Swift myself, considering all of our current code bases are based in Objective-C. However, that nagging feeling that learning Swift sooner than later would be advantageous wouldn’t go away. The Next Big Thing At Creative Ave we really just like building cool stuff. That’s our mission statement if you will. While the past year we’ve focused on rapidly expanding Caffiend and bringing out a lot of the features we wanted to add, we haven’t done much else app-wise. We’ve tossed around and said no to a lot of app ideas though. Happily in the past month we’ve had two very interesting candidates for new apps. Being the lead programmer my first thought was “This could be an opportunity to try Swift!” Not having an established code base to deal with was key for me. Also, both of these projects are ventures into new territory for us, which means lots of learning regardless. Finally, it seemed like a more-future proof solution than knowing that if we went Obj-C, someday I would have to rewrite both of these apps in Swift anyway. I’m not sure whether either of these apps will make it to market, but it’s exciting to be a newbie again. Not being so familiar with the syntax and what I expect has been a blessing creatively, despite being very frustrating sometimes. Unexpected Arrival As I was off toying around with Swift for these prototype projects, a small project crossed our path; a simple one off app. Being so simple I quickly decided this would be my proving ground. We would ship this simple app in Swift. A few days have gone by and I can now report that it has been quite successful. This one off app is almost entirely done, the customer is thrilled (and cou...

Read Full Story

iOS Programming Resource – App Coda

My first post has to be App Coda. When I started teaching myself Objective-C and learning how to make iOS apps, I learned the most from App Coda and Ray Wenderlich. App Coda is a 100% free site that the author walks you through step by step (in amazing detail for newbies) how to accomplish programming tasks in Xcode and MORE IMPORTANTLY why you are doing them.

The site has tutorials that cover a variety of topics. While they don’t cover everything the material they do have is solid gold. For anyone trying to get into iOS programming without much of a background I would recommend giving a few of their tutorials a read and immersing yourself in the material.

Link – App Coda Website

Read Full Story