Apple showcased ARKit 2 capabilities, including a mode called Persistence that lets users drop a virtual object in an environment and then return to it later in that specific place. Another feature, Shared Experiences, allows multiple users to play a single augmented-reality game together.

(Staff and Bloomberg)—Apple Inc. on Monday highlighted improvements to its augmented-reality software, a key foundation for iPhones, iPads and future devices.

On stage at Apple’s annual developer conference on Monday, executive Craig Federighi showcased ARKit 2 capabilities, including a mode called Persistence that lets users drop a virtual object in an environment and then return to it later in that specific place. Another feature, Shared Experiences, allows multiple users to play a single augmented-reality game together. In a demonstration, the company showed a Lego game and displayed how two iPhone users could play at the same time from different locations.

Apple also announced an augmented-reality file format and standard that it hopes will push AR capabilities to more applications. The technology overlays 3-D images on people’s view of the real world. A demo showed how news publishers can integrate AR into stories and web developers can add it to their websites. Adobe Systems Inc. came on stage and announced AR integration is coming to its iPhone apps.

Apple, No. 2 in the Internet Retailer 2018 Top 1000, also introduced a new app called Measure for iOS devices that lets people virtually measure distances and detect shapes in the real world. It marks the first Apple-designed standalone AR app for consumers.

Apple first indicated its interest in AR a couple of years ago, and its offerings thus far have focused on software that uses the cameras on its iPhones and other existing devices. The company is working on an AR headset for release as early as 2020, which would benefit from this new technology.

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Apple unveiled ARKit in June 2017, and as of November 2017, augmented reality was available to any consumer with an iPhone 6s or newer running the iOS11 operating system. As of December, 59% of Apple devices used iOS 11, according to Apple. 44.9% of U.S. smartphone-owning adults own an iPhone as of June, according to digital measurement firm comScore Inc.

Apple isn’t the only major player delving into AR. Last year, Google launched similar AR software called ARCore for Android devices.

Home furnishings platform and marketplace Houzz has had its “View in My Room 3-D” augmented reality features since May 2017 with its iOS app. Less than a year later, 2 million shoppers have used the feature, and Houzz announced today that its 3-D feature is now available in its Android app via ARCore.

Similarly, home improvement retailers Lowe’s Cos. Inc. (No. 21 in the Internet Retailer 2018 Top 1000) and Build.com Inc. (No. 68) have had increases in average order values when shoppers view their products in 3-D compared with when shoppers don’t—104% for Lowe’s and a 64% increase in AOV for Build.com. Lowe’s new feature with ARCore lets shoppers view the retailer’s spring catalog of products in augmented reality.

Jet.com, which is owned by Walmart Inc. (No. 3), also is using ARCore for shoppers to view electronics in the context of their home.

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Online marketplace eBay Inc. (No. 4 in the marketplaces database) is taking a different approach with using augmented reality. With eBay’s “Which Box” feature, eBay allows marketplace sellers to use AR to visualize how large of a box it needs to ship a product.

Facebook has also shown interest in AR, while Amazon.com Inc. (No. 1) is also building an AR headset, Bloomberg News reported earlier this year.

 

April Berthene contributed to this report.

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