ARKit, HoloLens and more: Watch the best AR demos so far

We explore which developers are making AR magic
Watch the best AR demos so far

When it comes to the next wave of AR we're still very much in the 'cool demo' stage - at least until this fall. So let's enjoy it. Indie developers and new AR studios like Peter Jackson's Wingnut are working with Apple's ARKit. There's also Snap, Google, Facebook and whatever Magic Leap is building, with unashamed influences in their early efforts from AR visions in movies, books and games.

The videos hitting the web so far have tended to focus on introducing the basics of what AR in 2017 can do or just show off what the dev can come up with in a short space of time.

Essential reading: Everything you need to know about AR

We've split the AR demos up into entertainment, education, sport and, well, everything else. Most are shot through the AR glasses or phone, showing what you'd actually see, rather than being concepts. Let us know what your favourites are in the comments below.

Entertainment

Wingnut AR

While director Peter Jackson is well known for his work in film, he also has one eye trained towards AR gaming through the production studio Wingnut AR. And while it's a pretty, ahem, interesting name for a company, a demo at Apple's recent WWDC conference showed that, through the power of Epic Games' Unreal Engine 4, it's also able to exhibit some serious AR power.

The company is still fresh from its R&D phase, so don't expect a full-fledged AR game anytime soon, but know that this kind of action is coming sooner rather than later. Hey, maybe even alongside a piece of Apple AR smartglasses because that iPad is gonna hurt your arms after a while.

Lucasfilm and ILM

Just exactly how far along the line Magic Leap's project is remains up for discussion, but around a year ago we were treated to the announcement that it was working with Lucasfilm's ILMxLAB to offer (eventual) users the chance to welcome R2-D2 and C-3PO into their living room and more.

Little else is known about what the partnership will hold, but we imagine some shorts involving quintessential Star Wars holograms could appear when everything at Magic Leap rounds into shape. The above demo is delightful enough for now and it's good news that Hollywood heavyweights ILM are on board.

HoloLens and Super Mario

This is bloody nuts. Games developer Abhishek Singh has done what any right-minded person with his level of talent would do and recreated the first level of Super Mario Bros as a first person AR game in Central Park. The demo was built in Unity3D for the HoloLens and the video was shot through the headset. Sadly it's unlikely HoloLens owners will get to try this out due to, you know, copyright.

HoloLens and Minecraft

After initially being unveiled over two years ago at E3 for use with Microsoft's HoloLens, Minecraft also recently got the Apple treatment thanks to the smarts of ARKit, Unity 3D and developers. With its inherent ability to harness creation and exploration, it's a perfect playground for those new to the platform.

Players are free to explore their created worlds through their fingertips, with voice control and the ability to play with friends also in tow. However, viewing entire worlds through HoloLens isn't quite as impressive as it would appear above, due to that restricted FOV on the helmet itself.

Education

Hololens and anatomy

Through HoloLens, students are able to explore human anatomy - you know, in a purely educational capacity - in a completely fresh way. Researchers at Case Western University have been working on implementing the technology and moving away from cadavers since 2015, and aim to have it as a staple of the curriculum by 2019.

Of course, any experience, such as taking a deep-dive into the human heart, wouldn't look exactly like how it does in the video (again, that FOV), and students would likely only be privy to a portion of the heart through their headset. But still, better than slicing open a cadaver, right?

Meta and the brain

It's not just Hololens that can run educational tools in biology, with Meta also showing off this journey through the human brain in a demo at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year, using Unity's graphics engine to run the show. With the Meta 2 offering users a 2560 x 1440 display resolution and, more importantly, a 90-degree field of view, it's a strong contender for simultaneous interaction in a classroom of the future.

ARKit and astronomy

While not strictly an educational demo, this demo from Tomás Garcia does offer a ground floor view of how the solar system could be taught in decades to come. Instead of building a paper mache diorama, simply put on your AR glasses and enjoy a recreation of the moon landing. It'll be like the original moon landing all over again - real, but not actually real.

ARKit and bar charts

Hey, it can't all be about weaving through time and space in order to improve your education; sometimes you have to deal with just plain ol' bar charts. Luckily, as shown above in Azam Sharp's demo, even this can be an interactive experience through Apple's ARKit. And if that isn't enough to excite you, just think of the fun when you start learning about algebra.

Sport

Vizrt in broadcasting

Overlays in sports broadcasting aren't anything particularly new, but thanks to the smarts of the Spidercam and Vizrt's AR studio, they're becoming more prominent.

It's worth bearing in mind that this is technology that's developed for flat TV viewing, but it's easy to imagine a scenario in which broadcasters would partner with tech companies in order to provide graphics within a headset or glasses as you view a game.

HoloLens and the NFL

As Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen owns the Seattle Seahawks, the NFL's partnership with the tech giant is no surprise. And while this results in the company stocking sidelines with Surface tablets, it could also mean that it receives the opportunity to spearhead any dive into the field - hopefully in a similar manner to how it's demonstrated in the concept above.

Google and the NFL

Oh, Google Glass. Yes, while the company is now behind the 8-ball with regard to bringing fans the action in AR, it's still notable to drop this TED Talk from former NFL punter Chris Kluwe back in 2014, in which its potential applications are discussed. It won't be doing so through Google Glass, but any future jump into AR hardware could hold a similar vision.

ARKit and route-mapping

You know when you ask a friend for a running or cycling route and immediately forget all information they give you? Well, by merging the smarts of Unity, Apple's ARKit, Mapbox and Strava like developer Adam Debreczeni, you're able to show off your route in AR. Now, of course, this example is just being shown through an iPhone, but just imagine viewing the action through a pair of Apple's smartglasses.

Everything else

Space cats

Not only do space cats deserve a place in augmented reality, but they could also offer some practical applications further down the line. Ever want to remember directions and drop a pin on a map - well, why not drop a trail of space cats, instead?

Snap's World Lenses

Snap recently added World Lenses to its Snapchat platform, allowing AR elements to be captured into any scene through your camera. Of course, while its currently only available through the lens of your phone, the company's dip into hardware with Snap Spectacles will almost certainly be followed by a pair of glasses that can take advantage of its software.

Fidget spinners

Yes, using Apple ARKit, even mindless trends can make the leap. As you can see from indie developer Shane Vitarana's demo above, this blue spinner has been morphed onto the glass table and flicked to create a simple anti-clockwise spin. It's all well and good, but we eagerly await the day when we can show off our wild fidget skills in another dimension. You know, if the trend isn't dead by then.

Portals

Another ARKit exploit here, this time from the folks at Nedd, who managed to create a door-shaped inter-dimensional portal in the middle of the street. While it's all very Monsters Inc. and potentially great for when you want to quickly escape an awkward date, we imagine that immersing yourself in this reality through a pair of future smartglasses wouldn't end well on a busy road.

IKEA

While many will trek to IKEA for the furniture and stay for the meatballs, sometimes you just want to plant that new couch into your living room and see if it fits. Instead of using your imagination, though, IKEA wants you to use your phone or tablet in order to make your buying decisions.

The furniture company has allowed users to use this kind of tech for some years now, but is currently working with Apple to improve the app experience through ARKit.

Facebook

Another demo through a camera here, but what's interesting about Facebook's own demo is the hint that this will only serve as the initial foray into AR. The Mark Zuckerberg joint is heavily reported to be working on hardware of its own - made more likely, no doubt, by the tone regarding the future of VR and AR from the supremo himself.



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