Epic Games CEO Tim Sweeney thinks Apple’s upcoming iOS 11 update, arriving this fall, will be a huge boost to the emerging AR industry.
Sweeney, whose company makes the Unreal Engine toolset used in creating some of the biggest budget 3D projects, outlined in a blog post this week why he saw this as a huge moment for immersive computing:
Apple’s debut of VR support for Mac and AR support for iOS are true game-changers. Whereas there are a couple million VR enthusiasts today, and early AR hardware from other companies has reached several thousand developers, Apple is bringing this high-powered technology to hundreds of millions of consumers right now.
I believe this is truly the start of the mainstream VR and AR revolution that we at Epic have been striving for, and building for, over the course of many years. It’s the most definitive event marking the move to high-end technology that will power a new generation of world-class experiences transcending games and storytelling.
With both Unity and Unreal integrating with ARKit for iOS, the two major tools for creating virtual worlds are now available to developers for building apps on hundreds of millions of Apple handhelds. There have been tools developers could use before, but Sweeney thinks Apple’s support for AR could accelerate adoption.
“Apple has an extraordinary history of adopting trends at just the right time that they’re ready for mainstream pickup,” Sweeney said in an interview with UploadVR. “From the buzz among developers we know and we work with there is going to be an incredible rush of developers working to support this…you’re going to see an immense amount of investment very quickly.”
Sweeney suggests the VR market is so small right now it is difficult for teams to justify large investments in content, but with AR suddenly more accessible on hundreds of millions of iPhones and iPads it is a potential gold rush for teams investing in the right idea. Of course, there are still major technical challenges to overcome. What does a multiplayer AR game look like, for example? According to Sweeney, a lot of technology still needs to be built to make compelling AR experiences.
“It is an entirely new kind of entertainment experience,” Sweeney said. “We’re going to see a flurry of experiments and successes and failures that all build on top of each other.”