With the introduction of iOS 11 and a development tool called ARKit, Apple is betting that augmented reality could be the next revolutionary feature for smartphones. At the very least, it’s facilitated a secret feature that lets iPhone users pretend they’re giant monsters stomping through a tiny city.
The feature was discovered by developer Felix Lapalme who stumbled across it in the iOS 11 beta 2 developer build, but it’s been confirmed to work in the public beta as well. In a video he posted to Twitter, Lapalme towers over a 3D representation of Montreal in the Apple Maps app using the Flyover feature. The ‘flight’ is usually just a pre-determined animation path, but here Lapalme’s physical movements around a room are being translated in real-time to what he’s seeing on screen.
So.. Apple put an awesome VR mode in Apple Maps (powered by ARKit) and didn’t even talk about it in the Keynote ? Wow pic.twitter.com/2ZBBXj4NYM
— Felix Lapalme (@lap_felix) June 27, 2017
This functionality could be achieved using just the iPhone’s built-in gyro sensor, but Lapalme is convinced it’s also relying on iOS 11's augmented reality features because when he covered his device’s cameras, the feature stopped working.
It’s a fun feature, even if it doesn’t establish augmented reality as the must-have future of smartphones. But it does show how deeply ARKit is being integrated into iOS, and once iOS 11 is officially released, we’ll undoubtedly be seeing more practical examples of how augmented reality can be a genuinely useful addition to our smartphones.