With the latest version of ARKit and a new set augmented reality development tools set to arrive this Fall with iOS 13, Apple has taken an unprecedented step in recruiting Chinese developers to fill the App Store with mobile AR apps now, likely with an eye to the future.
On Wednesday, Apple cut the ribbon a new design development accelerator, located in the Pudong district of Shanghai. This is the first center of its kind opened by Apple in China.
The facility will house a team of Apple experts who will tutor participating developers on creating apps for Apple’s various operating systems, in particular the new capabilities of ARKit 3, such as People Occlusion and Motion Capture, the AR Quick Look feature for web-based AR, the RealityKit 3D framework, and the Reality Composer development app. Apple’s tech sherpas will also guide developers on the best practices for preparing their apps for submission to the App Store.
As part of the accelerator’s curriculum, Apple will also offer lectures, seminars, guest speakers, and other hands-on learning opportunities.
The new center arrives at a critical time during Apple’s evolving augmented reality business. While ARKit took the App Store by storm in 2017, developers have been — based on the relatively low volume of new ARKit apps — less than enthusiastic in their adoption of the new features introduced in ARKit 2.0, such as multiplayer experiences and persistent content.
There are further reaching implications on Apple’s relationship with the Chinese development community, though. Assuming ARKit serves as the foundation for Apple’s future in smartglasses, the company needs to boost the available AR content for the eventual launch of Apple’s rumored AR smartglasses.
Currently, the prevailing assumption among some AR insiders is that Apple’s under-development AR wearable will take over the market upon its release. Apparently, Apple views the early mover AR competition in China as a threat, with the accelerator serving as its first line of defense.