Mobile

Apple dives into augmented reality with new developer kit

The iPhone maker finally enters the AR fray, alongside rivals like Facebook and Google, with ARKit.

wwdc-2017-setup-sean-hollister-008.jpg

Apple made the augmented reality announcement at its WWDC conference.

Sean Hollister/CNET

Apple is finally getting into augmented reality. 

The iPhone maker on Monday announced ARKit, a platform that invites third-party software developers to created augmented reality experiences for iPhone and iPad apps. AR, one of Silicon Valley's newest obsessions, overlays digital images and animations over what you see in the real world through a camera. 

The company unveiled the platform at its Worldwide Developers Conference in San Jose, California.

Craig Federighi, senior vice president of software engineering, touted it's "overnight, the largest AR platform in the world," because of how many people own iOS devices. 

Now Playing: Watch this: Apple jumps into augmented reality with developer kit
2:53

Federighi demoed the platform by showing off digital objects like a cup of coffee, lamp and vase that "appeared" on top of an onstage table. The company also showed off what the technology would look like with the popular AR game Pokemon Go. Apple also mentioned AR apps from Ikea and Lego. 

The announcement puts Apple squarely in the middle of an already-heated competition when it comes to augmented reality. Most of the big tech companies, including Google, Facebook, Microsoft and Snapchat, have made big pushes in AR. Google has its Tango platform for phones and tablets, as well as its newly-announced Google Lens. That lets people get information about things in the real world just by pointing their cameras at them.

Snapchat and Facebook already have AR filters that overlay things like flower crowns or Iron Man masks on photos or videos. In April, Facebook announced its own AR platform that asks outside developers to build experiences for its in-app camera. And Microsoft has touted its own AR technology with its Hololens headset.

Apple CEO Tim Cook has in the past hinted at a move into AR. "We don't have to think the iPhone is about a certain demographic, or country or vertical market: It's for everyone," Cook told with The Independent in February. "I think AR is that big, it's huge."

Check out more of CNET's coverage of WWDC 2017.