Apple releases ARKit 3.5, adding Scene Geometry API and lidar support

Apple’s augmented reality development toolset ARKit has received several major updates over the last few years, most recently adding major AR scene composition tools in ARKit 3 at last year’s WWDC. Just ahead of tomorrow’s official release of the 2020 iPad Pro, Apple today bumped ARKit to version 3.5, adding features that take special advantage of the tablet’s lidar sensor capabilities — a sign that similar hardware will appear in other Apple devices in the foreseeable future.

ARKit 3.5 adds a new Scene Geometry API that uses the lidar scanner to create a 3D map of a space, differentiating between floors, walls, ceilings, windows, doors, and seats. The scanner is able to rapidly measure lengths, widths, and depths of objects at up to five-meter distances, enabling users to quickly create a digital facsimile that can be used for object occlusion — making digital objects appear to blend into a scene partially behind real objects. Thanks to “Instant AR” support, those digital objects can be placed automatically within a space, without the need to wave the tablet around and give its cameras a sense of the space.

Apple also says that it’s improved ARKit’s motion capture and people occlusion in version 3.5, better estimating depth for people and height for motion capture. Previously, ARKit did a “good enough” job at measuring length using an iPhone’s or iPad’s 2D cameras, but the lidar scanner enables more accurate 3-axis measurements, automatically benefitting previously developed apps without the need for code changes.

ARKit 3.5 is available now for registered developers as part of Xcode 11.4, Apple’s third-party software development kit. Xcode 11.4 was released today shortly after the final versions of iOS and iPadOS 13.4 became available to the general public.

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