A screenshot of the NBA's new app for iOS. Image via NBA.

New App Continues to Show the Promise of ARKit

The NBA has just released a new augmented reality (AR) app this week –the imaginatively named “NBA AR App”— which grants iPhone users the ability to shoot hoops anywhere in the real world with a few flicks of the fingers.

With Apple’s release of iOS 11 and blisteringly fast new hardware optimized for AR and AI processing in its latest phone lineup, AR may finally have reached its public breakout after the novelty of last year’s widely popular Pokémon GO first introduced AR technology to millions of users who could “see” the app’s titular monsters on their phone’s screens.

An AR basketball so realistic you can almost smell it — the NBA AR App in action. Image via NBA.

The past month has seen the release of a host of AR apps for Apple devices –based on the company’s new ARKit framework– such as apps that allows you to try everything in AR from placing new furniture to painting in midair to even testing out whether or not a new car will fit into your garage. There are more utilitarian apps out there of course such as app that lets a user measure lengths in the real world to a surprising degree of accuracy, but AR’s most viral uses likely are still in gaming.

According to coverage of the app’s launch in USA Today:

“We’ve always said that basketball can be played virtually anywhere–and today that takes on an expanded meaning,” said Melissa Rosenthal Brenner, NBA senior vice president of digital media. “Augmented reality presents a variety of fascinating engagement opportunities, so we hope our fans download the app and try out their skills wherever they might be.”

So, is NBA AR App the next Pokémon GO? We doubt it. But it hints at all of the possibilities ARKit offers and shows just how far AR has come in the recent years. So we are faintly impressed with the fact that with only the device in your pocket, you can drop a mini photorealistic basketball court anywhere on Earth in real time and shoot a round of hoops with your fingers.