Apple's ARKit gives AR apps motion capture, lets you step inside a digital creation

Adding features like motion capture and "people occlusion" can make augmented reality on Apple devices feel more real.

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2 min read

Apple updated ARKit with motion capture. 

Screenshot by Lynn La/CNET

Apple updated its ARKit tool set to make it easier for iPhone augmented-reality apps to capture people's movements by pointing the camera at them and recognize when somebody steps in front of an AR digital creation, known as people occlusion. 

The announcements, made at Apple's WWDC developer conference, included a new AR technology called RealityKit, which assists creators with photorealistic rendering of digital assets, as well as animating them and having them obey laws of physics. It works with Apple's Swift programming software for developers, and there's also a Reality Composer that can create AR experiences on the Mac, iPad and iPhone.

"It's a huge year for AR," Craig Federighi, Apple's senior vice president of software engineering, said Monday. 

Apple's annual developer convention kicked off Monday at the McEnery Convention Center in San Jose, California. WWDC is where Apple details its newest software and services that will arrive on devices later in the year. 

ARKit was Apple's first public effort in augmented reality. Augmented reality, or AR, overlays digital images on the real world using special headsets or your phone, like the leaping Pokemon in Pokemon Go or filters and lenses that go over your face on Instagram and Snapchat. 

Apple CEO Tim Cook has indicated the company is preparing for a big future in AR, saying it's a technology that's potentially as important as the iPhone. Although Apple has been working on a high-power headset capable of running both AR and virtual reality, the company's own AR tech released so far is mostly linked to its own camera app or manifested by things like its Memoji cartoony avatar feature. 

But ARKit, which was unveiled two years ago at WWDC, makes it easier for developers outside Apple to create augmented reality apps for iPhones and iPads too. 

Follow all of today's Apple news.