iOS 11.3 will be about more than just performance throttling options; AR is the focus
Today, Apple released a developer preview of iOS 11.3 and previewed iOS 11.3 to the public with a blog post and a press event. As previously reported, some iteration of iOS 11.3 will include the ability to toggle the controversial performance throttling previously implemented to address problems related to aging batteries in the iPhone 6 and iPhone 7 models.
However, the centerpiece of Apple's presentation is ARKit 1.5, a new version of the augmented reality software development framework introduced in iOS 11. Whereas ARKit previously only helped app developers map 3D objects to flat, horizontal surfaces like the floor or a table, ARKit 1.5 will make vertical surfaces like walls, doors, and windows workable by AR apps.
For example, Apple demonstrated an app that placed a target on the wall and tasked the user with throwing a virtual ball on the phone screen at the target. If the ball missed the target, it would bounce off the wall. None of that is part of the current version of ARKit. Further, ARKit apps will be able to read 2D information like signs, artwork, or screens placed on those horizontal surfaces, like "bringing a movie poster to life."
ARKit applications will now have better tools for working with irregularly shaped surfaces, as well, and Apple says the device's camera "now has 50-percent greater resolution and supports auto-focus for an even sharper perspective."
Apple CEO Tim Cook has previously said that he believes augmented reality is a major part of Apple's strategy and its future, and he sees AR apps as a major opportunity.
In an interview with The Independent, he explained:
Think back to 2008, when the App Store went live. There was the initial round of apps, and people looked at them and said, "this is not anything, mobile apps are not going to take off." And then, step by step, things start to move. And it is sort of a curve, it was just exponential–and now you couldn't imagine your life without apps. Your health is on one app, your financials, your shopping, your news, your entertainment–it's everything. AR is like that. It will be that dramatic.
Augmented reality planning permeated almost every aspect of Apple's iPhone X design. The company is banking on the hope that these features will open the floodgates for new kinds of useful applications and give the iPhone a competitive advantage. However, Google is working on a similar framework called ARCore for Android devices.
Apple claims that there are currently more than 2,000 augmented reality apps on the Apple App Store. That's a drop in the bucket in such a large app store, but devices with the hardware to give a good AR experience are only recently on the market, so we can expect many more. And some of them might actually end up being the killer apps that demonstrate the value of the technology.
ARKit might be the focus of iOS 11.3, but there are a couple of other features coming with iOS 11.3. Apple is introducing health records to its Health app on the iPhone. It will add a section to the app that imports health records from several participating providers, broken into segments like "allergies," "medications," "immunizations," and "lab results." Apple hopes to make it easier for users to manage and control their health data, but of course it will require transparency from and involvement by health institutions. To start, only a few facilities are participating.
According to Apple, they include:
- Johns Hopkins Medicine (Baltimore, Maryland)
- Cedars-Sinai (Los Angeles, California)
- Penn Medicine (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania)
- Geisinger Health System (Danville, Pennsylvania)
- UC San Diego Health (San Diego, California)
- UNC Health Care (Chapel Hill, North Carolina)
- Rush University Medical Center (Chicago, Illinois)
- Dignity Health (Arizona, California and Nevada)
- Ochsner Health System (Jefferson Parish, Louisiana)
- MedStar Health (Washington, D.C., Maryland, and Virginia)
- OhioHealth (Columbus, Ohio)
- Cerner Health-E Clinic (Kansas City, Missouri)
iOS 11.3 will also implement the Business Chat feature, which will allow users to chat directly and anonymously with customer support and customer care representatives at participating companies, like Lowe's, Discover, Hilton, and Wells Fargo. Apple is also bringing music videos to the Apple Music app (playing catch up with Spotify), HomeKit software authentication, support for Advanced Mobile Location (AML), and some minor improvements and additions to the News app. Apple has released some images of Business Chat and health records, seen below.
Finally, there are four new Animoji models, pictured below. There's no new functionality with these Animoji, of course; they're just new faces you can use.
iOS 11.3 will be available this spring on "iPhone 5s and later, all iPad Air and iPad Pro models, iPad 5th generation, iPad mini 2 and later, and iPod touch 6th generation," according to Apple.