This 11-year-old released 7 iPhone apps. His latest takes on AR

Kids these days develop the darndest augmented reality apps.

Daniel Van Boom Senior Writer
Daniel Van Boom is an award-winning Senior Writer based in Sydney, Australia. Daniel Van Boom covers cryptocurrency, NFTs, culture and global issues. When not writing, Daniel Van Boom practices Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, reads as much as he can, and speaks about himself in the third person.
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Daniel Van Boom
4 min read
Yuma Soerianto

When reruns are on TV, what do you do? If you're like me, you accept destiny and continue to laze about on the couch.

If you're Yuma Soerianto, you start a whole new career.

Currently Yuma has seven apps in Apple's App Store. He learned how to code five years ago, finding it a more entertaining alternative to watching TV reruns.

Also, Yuma is just 11 years old.

"I got into coding at the age of 6," he told me while demonstrating his latest app at a recent event in Sydney, Australia, where he travelled from his home in Melbourne. "I got back from school and I usually watch TV, but there were reruns and I hate reruns. They're boring. At the time I just wanted to do something else other than watching TV."

Talk about turning a negative into a positive. Yuma, with some guidance from his father, taught himself through online games and tutorials, figuring out how to make his own website. From there, he made some simple browser games. He even made online birthday cards for his friends that involved playing a minigame to unlock Yuma's well wishes.

"I showed him an iTunes U course from Stanford university," said his father, Hendri, himself a user interface designer. "In the course there were some math concepts such as trigonometry that he hadn't learned before, so he had to learn that too." 

This was in 2015, when Yuma was 8 years old. 

"He woke up before me and my wife and I often found him watching the lectures by himself in the mornings. That's how much he wanted to learn coding!"

Yuma's latest app is Let's Stack AR!, a simple but addictive game in which you help a duck, piloting a UFO, stack blocks. Naturally. Previous apps include Weather Duck, in which a duck tells you how to dress in accordance with the weather, and Hunger Button, which suggests a nearby restaurant in situations where you and your friends can't decide where to eat. 

Hendri says he and his family become beta testers for Yuma's creations. One of Yuma's browser games, Jackpot, was built for his grandmother. Let's Stack AR! is an updated version of a previous Let's Stack app, and Yuma's first venture into augmented reality developing.

"I thought about using AR as an advantage to measure your tower, and that's how I came up with the idea for the Stack AR," he said. Yuma built the app over a period of around three months, working on it around an hour a day.

"It got awarded App of the Day," he added casually. Ah, to be young and have your app get international recognition from one of the world's most powerful companies.

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AR has been a big focus for Apple since last September, when ARKit was rolled out alongside iOS 11 . With the updated operating system, any iPhone released after 2014 (think 6S onward), as well as newer iPads , are able to run augmented reality apps, which work with the device's camera to inset virtual objects onto real-life backgrounds.

These virtual objects most famously include Pokemon, but also frogs (ripe for dissection), Lego, GIFs and much, much more. This appears to be only the first of many steps Apple is set to take in AR. CEO Tim Cook previously compared the technology's potential impact to the iPhone's, and the company was recently revealed to have an AR and VR headset in the works.

But, as you'd expect, Apple isn't the only one. Google has augmented aspirations too, and has built its own mobile platform, ARCore, to rival ARKit.

Yuma Soerianto

Yuma is one of many developers looking to develop AR's next killer app. Playside Studios has found success in AR with the iOS-exclusive AR Dragon, a wild combo of Tamagotchi, Nintendogs and AR, and has two more projects in the works.

Halfbrick Studios, meanwhile, is going another route. The Fruit Ninja developer is working on Shadows Remain: AR Thriller, a surprisingly high-budget game that's reminiscent of Heavy Rain.

Apple's ARKit is only around one year young. It was unveiled at the company's Worldwide Developer Conference ( WWDC ) last year. Yuma, incidentally, had won a scholarship to attend WWDC.

"I went to US and I thought, 'this is fine, this is fine,'" he said of his WWDC trip. "I was just walking along, and then I met someone, it was Tim Cook, the CEO of Apple. I showed him my apps!" On the same trip, he soon thereafter met Michelle Obama.

"It was the culmination of Yuma's hard work and determination," Hendri, his father, said. "I was very grateful that Apple recognised that."

But more importantly (to an 11-year-old game developer, at least), he was exposed to lots of AR. And he was sold on it. "AR in general can lead the future or be part of the future," he said, contemplating for a moment. "Somehow." 

While not at school, doing homework or being an internationally recognized developer, Yuma focuses on teaching others. He's got his own YouTube channel, Anyone Can Code, and in May will take part in Melbourne Knowledge Week to spread the good word. 

In June, he'll head on over to San Jose after winning another scholarship to attend WWDC

"I hope in 10 years he'll have realised his dream of changing the world through technology," Hendri said. "But Yuma's only 11, his path can lead anywhere -- he might want to be an astronaut next year!"

Thank God for TV reruns.

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