Another year, another Apple Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC). The annual event enables Apple to showcase its new software and technology for software developers. In this blog we analyze the key technologies, and what they mean for consumers, businesses and developers.
Augmented reality is changing the way we play and interact
New platforms for augmented reality were, with no doubt, one of the highlights of Apple’s WWDC event. Last Monday, the company announced its new augmented reality development platform for iOS, ARKit 2.0. The platform allows developers to make AR applications more dynamic, thanks to object detection, image tracking and facial recognition. ARKit 2.0 also enables users to share their AR experiences. During the event, Craig Federighi and Martin Sanders did a fantastic demo using the Lego AR application and ARKit 2.0 to show how they integrate physical and digital spaces. Four players can participate in the game at the same time from different devices.
In addition, Apple announced a new file format for augmented reality called USDZ, which the company has developed along with Pixar Studios. USDZ enables developers to incorporate 3D graphics and animations, which developers will be able to create in Photoshop and Adobe Dimension. This new file format made it possible to create “Measure”, an app that calculates the size of physical objects, and visualize virtual images in physical spaces.
Major improvements for Siri and watchOS
Thanks to the acquisition of Workflow last year, Apple introduced “Shortcuts” for Siri, which connects and automates tasks. With the app, users will be able to set up personalized routines and activate them with voice commands. For instance, with just a single voice command such as “trip to the beach”, the device will search the best route, play a radio station, and provide a weather report. This feature represents a major enhancement for the well known Siri.
Apple’s watch also comes with interesting updates that enhance the portability and practicality of the device. watchOS 5 aims to improve exercise workflows and optimize the way users access content and information. Third party apps will be integrated in the system, and users will have access to their customized shortcuts on their wrists. Also, thanks to the new feature of interactive notifications, users will be able to execute tasks without having to open the app. These features, in addition to a new web viewer (so you can open some links on your watch, not your iPhone), and the option of listening to podcasts, offer a variety of content for people to easily reach.
Proactive predictions and suggestions help improve users’ quality of life
Apple’s WWDC this year showed the importance of being able to anticipate human behaviour in order to provide meaningful experiences. This idea is reflected in the updates for Apple Photos, which basically works in the background to offer suggestions. For instance, the app classifies pictures under predetermined or customized key words, such as “restaurant” or “museum”. This means it’s easier to search for the photo you’re looking for. Another feature is if you send or receive pictures, it has “suggested sharing”, to help you share photos among friends. The app ensures that we can easily access every moment captured during the important events of our lives.
The acquisition of Workflow for iOS was a major step to anticipating users’ needs. Since Siri will be able to work with third party apps, she will be constantly working to predict behaviour and offer proactive suggestions to the user based on time and location. For instance, if you are going to arrive late to a meeting, Siri will suggest notifying the organizer, or if you go to a movie, she will suggest to turn on the “do not disturb” option.
What does it mean for consumers, businesses and developers?
Apple’s WWDC is over, and it’s now time to analyze what the announcements mean for users, developers, and businesses.
The improvements that Apple has made to ARKit will speed up with adoption of augmented reality, and the changes that the technology will bring about. AR will gradually change the way businesses develop new products. From interior design, to industrial and medical services, AR is a powerful tool to create prototypes of products, enabling companies to visualize various versions of the final result, and make changes rapidly and at a low cost. In addition, AR impacts the way users make purchases. The ability for instance to have a 360° view of objects from an iPad, and being able to “place” them in physical spaces from our devices, will transform how we buy products.
Also, augmented reality is a great tool for users to understand the world around them. It allows people to dive into different areas of knowledge such as medicine or engineering, bringing to life concepts that can be hard to understand. AR is making information and knowledge available in a dynamic and fun way, which means that users are more informed about products and services and expect a higher level of quality and assistance. That is why companies need to be prepared for increasingly demanding customers.
Apple made it clear how powerful integrated systems can offer users seamless and enjoyable interactions; omnichannel experiences are becoming a must for organizations, because Apple continues to raise their expectations of products and services.
Concluding with insight from Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO
During the event, Tim Cook emphasized the importance of learning to code. As he mentioned, our lives are dominated by software. We use it to manage everything from our banking accounts, to accessing information. And although Cook is aware that not everyone is willing to engage with software development as a career, he believes that schools around the world must teach their students the basics of coding because it develops critical thinking and problem solving skills. He underlined the efforts that Apple have made to make it easier to learn to code, with Swift, which is now the fastest growing programming language. Indeed, in previous interviews, he has said that, between enrolling in software development and learning English as a second language, he would choose the first one as it makes possible to express to 7 million people in the world. Also, software development is a vehicle to boost and cultivate creativity. As he has previously said “creativity is in the front seat; technology is in the backseat. It is sort of the blend with both of these that you can do such powerful things”.