Pokémon GO with ARKit: natural, smooth and surreal

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Apple recently announced that ARKit, a new set of native Augmented Reality technologies, will be shipping with iOS 11.

Unsurprisingly, Pokémon GO was one of the applications featured on stage, showing how ARKit can help developers create more immersive and more realistic AR experiences. The demo featured a Pikachu encounter in the wild and Pokéball throwing.

It’s hard to explain how different the game looks with ARKit, so it’s best if you take a look at this recording before continuing reading the article.

Pokémon GO with ARKit demo:


If you are unmoved by what you just saw, take another look at the demo. The experience of encountering and visualising the Pokémon is fundamentally different, as the Pokémon now occupies real 3D space, anchored to a real 3D plane.

A few important things to note:

  • Pikachu grows bigger and smaller, depending on your actual distance from its spawn point. This was never done before, as it was not possible with the technology available in the past
  • You can actually walk around, or towards, or away from Pikachu, fundamentally changing the entire encounter mechanic. Walking closer will result in a different angle and distance required to throw the PokéBall in order to hit the model!
  • PokéBall collision now depends on both the position of the model and the orientation of the plane. It’s not same if you throw a PokéBall at something on the ground or at something standing on a table.

The current implementation of AR mode is a gimmick, at best, as it renders the 3D model in a fixed location on your screen, with rotation the only supported movement. There is no change in lightning, nor you are able to walk closer or further from the model.

Apple hasn’t shared all of the details about ARKit yet, but we do know the fundamentals. The technology works without any visual markers and is able to detect surfaces such as ground, table top, shelves, etc.

ARKit also provides lightning information, scale estimation and much better motion and position tracking than is possible today. In their own words:

ARKit can detect horizontal planes like tables and floors, and can track and place objects on smaller feature points as well. ARKit also makes use of the camera sensor to estimate the total amount of light available in a scene and applies the correct amount of lighting to virtual objects.

ARKit is likely to become the largest AR platform in the world, as it’s only requirement is a A9 or A10 processor. In other words, anything better than an iPhone 6S and SE will be capable of running it!

Android users are not left out either, as several open source projects are already doing the same thing on Android. Check out ARToolkit for more demos and information about AR on Android.

For us, this is a huge step forward in terms of what we imagined and dreamed Pokémon GO’s AR mode will look like.

The technology is new and it will probably be a huge battery drain, but the fact that we will finally be able to interact with our Pokémon makes us smile like it’s Christmas! This technology, no matter how new it is, finally enables Niantic and other gaming companies to put Pokémon in actual 3D place, with respect to outside lightning and terrain. The only thing we’re afraid of is how long it will take to walk around a Snorlax in the wild!

What a time to be alive.

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Zeroghan started the Hub in July 2016 and hasn't had much sleep since. A lover of all things Pokémon, web development, and writing.

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