Apple has barely mentioned augmented or virtual reality in its big keynotes lately, however at WWDC 2022 earlier this month, the company quietly released probably one of the best 3D room-mapping tools for mobile AR yet.

Called RoomPlan, the ARKit Swift API uses the camera and LiDAR scanner on recent iPhones and iPads to create a 3D floor plan of a room, including key characteristics such as dimensions and types of furniture.

It’s not for consumers (yet) though. Apple says it’s aiming to appeal to professionals like architecture and interior designers for conceptual exploration and planning, as well as developers of real estate, e-commerce, or hospitality apps; developers can integrate RoomPlan directly into their AR-capable apps.

When it was released earlier this month, Jonathan Stephens, Chief Evangelist at spatial computing company EveryPoint, took RoomPlan for a test drive to see what it could do. The results are pretty surprising.

RoomPlan seems to be able to deal with a number of traditionally difficult situations, including the mirror seen above, but also messy spaces, open and closed doors, windows, and generally complex architecture. Still, Stephens’ house isn’t just a bunch of cube-shaped rooms, so there’s a few bits that just didn’t match up.

Vaulted ceilings, wall openings, multifloor areas like you might find in foyers were all a bit too difficult for RoomPlan to correctly digest. Although not perfect, it seems to at least autocorrect to some degree based on some assumptions of how things might best fit together.

RoomPlan isn’t just for app integrations though. Apple says it outputs in USD or USDZ file formats which include dimensions of each component recognized in the room, such as walls or cabinets, as well as the type of furniture detected.

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If you’re looking to finetune the scan, dimensions and placement of each individual components can be adjusted when exported into various USDZ-compatible tools, such as Cinema 4D, Shapr3D, or AutoCAD, Apple says.

We’re still no closer to learning when the company plans to release its rumored mixed reality headset or its full-fledged AR glasses, however either AR or MR headset would need extremely robust space-mapping capabilities. Seeing Apple make these sorts of strides using its existent platforms certainly shows they’re on the right track.

If you haven’t been following along with the Apple rumor mill, check out some of the links below regarding the company’s mixed reality headset, codenamed N301:

What We (think we) Know About N301 Mixed Reality Headset

A special thanks to Hrafn Thorisson for pointing us to the news!

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Well before the first modern XR products hit the market, Scott recognized the potential of the technology and set out to understand and document its growth. He has been professionally reporting on the space for nearly a decade as Editor at Road to VR, authoring more than 4,000 articles on the topic. Scott brings that seasoned insight to his reporting from major industry events across the globe.
  • Neat, I want to play with it

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  • Dom

    How long do we recon before ‘automatic room mapping access to that data’ is part of the standard terms and conditions?

    • kontis

      The best part will be all your friends and family members mapping your entire house unwarily even when you never owned any Apple device. But THEY agreed in ToS when they made an Apple account.

      This isn’t even hypothetical.
      Apple already did something like that to me 8 years ago. They had my house geolocated despite me never owning any Apple device, so when I bought an iPad without GPS I was shocked it could locate me with GPS-like accuracy using WiFi SSIDs they collected years earlier through my friend’s iPhone (they correlated the wifi data with his GPS in his phone and it’s now forever in their database – very smart method and also very nefarious).

      They do even worse things with airtags never explicitly asking anyone for permission to collect data.

      And people call them “privacy champions”. Hilarious.

      • I don’t see what people are getting their feathers in a ruffle about.
        If you’ve an online presence in any way, shape or form, your location
        is known through whatever method. But like the saying goes:
        “If you’re not doing anything wrong, then you have nothing to worry about.”
        Besides, in 2022, how does anyone have any *reasonable* expectation of privacy …?
        That’s the world we live in now. If you don’t like it, go live in a cave or something.
        I hear the wifi there sucks. lol

  • XRC

    ARkit and ARcore? Apple and Google developers quietly building out the AR ecosystem using mass market platforms (iOS and Android).

    Could be seen as clever Trojan horse for mass market platform transitions once AR glasses become viable replacement for smartphone 2030’s?

    • dk

      and it’s a neat feature for the arvr apple headset coming next year

      • Jasmine Scott

        hello dude

      • kontis

        Not AR. MR/VR sure. True AR won’t be thing in this decade.

        • dk

          lol true ar already is part of this decade ….including with good affordable first gen headsets like nreal light
          ….and it was part of the previous decade too

          …what I was talking about was it will be useful for the apple ar/vr headset coming next year … far as small glases the apple glasses coming before the end of the decade will be quite limited …..the meta glasses also coming before the end of the decade won’t be that limited

    • kontis

      There is nothing indicating that light wide fov see through smartglasses with 12-hour battery will be possible in the next 20 years. GPUs now hit the same wall that CPUs hit 10 years ago and the progress is slowing down noticeably.

      The next decade will be about MR used by society like bulky headphones are used today – very useful and valuable, even for many casuals, but not a billion+ people smartphone type of device…

      • Lulu Vi Britannia

        It is some crazy future different world. Deep Learning pushes the boundaries of what’s possible with programs. Motion Capture is possible through mere webcams. 6Dof tech is everywhere thanks to the progress made in smartphone tech.
        AR is already possible in terms of software, which is why Mixed Reality exists: because it will enable AR possibilities before AR glasses actually exist. And in fact, AR hardware does exist already, the Magic Leap One and Hololens 2 are impressive pieces of tech. Holographic technologies are used by many companies. Just because the XR tech isn’t used by billions doesn’t mean that it has changed nothing.

        AR glasses lasting 12 hours won’t be a thing for a while. But no one said they had to last this long. You can just switch off the AR glasses when you don’t need them. Also, external batteries have been a thing for more than 5 years now. The Quest 2 lasts only 3 hours, and yet, with my 20Ah battery, it easily lasts 7 or 8 hours.

        As for the “walls” GPUs and CPUs have reached… no offense, but I’ve always seen these walls as a good joke. CPUs didn’t stop evolving ; when the progress slowed down, it was only due to lack of competition. There was no need for them to push further because AMD sucked balls. That’s the exact same for GPUs today, Nvidia has a considerable lead (even though current AMD GPUs aren’t bad). No competition means no progress.

        I am confident that AR will spread this decade. It will start with affordable high-quality Mixed Reality headset. Then one day, one of the big names will release a consumer AR headset, which will be compatible with the thousands of apps that people are already developing. Magic Leap is the equivalent of Oculus for AR in my eyes. Their hardware is really impressive, and shows that AR hardware is possible already, even though it needs progress (obviously).

        • Now I Can See

          To expand on what you’re saying, I feel like people are so used to the progress we have seen, that they write it off. We’ve become so accustomed to innovations and improvements that we can’t look past our noses.

          The argument could be made about AI being very key for AR to take off. Progress isn’t linear either, its exponential. Technology breeds technology.

          I remember the naysayers, on true standalone VR, stating that it was still 20-30 years out in 2012. Well look where we are now. I do think we will see more change in the next 5-10 years then we’ve seen in the past 15.

          • Lulu Vi Britannia

            For real, I didn’t expect we’d get good standalone VR in 2020! The Quest 2 is not just a good headset, it also has top specs and the best price/quality ratio! I do wish Meta wouldn’t give up on PCVR only headset though. In the interviews about their latest prototypes, Zuckerberg keeps talking about “introducing these technologies in standalone VR” instead of talking about releasing it for PC first… Like, Cambria is said to be high-end. It will be, I’m sure ; but it could be even more high-end if they accepted that getting the power of PCs just allows more. For example, the Quest 2 cameras are way too bad for Mixed Reality apps. It’s low-res and has no colors. The reason wasn’t just to drop the price: it was to save battery. But in a PCVR headset, no need to save battery, you can use top cameras for top Mixed Reality.

            I don’t think AR really needs AI. I mean, it’s not required for it to work. The one thing AR lacks, in terms of software, is real-time accurate occlusion. Once we figure that out, we can make AR apps that look credible and immersive. After that, it just needs concrete applications. For companies, we need to prove the Return On Investment when using immersive technologies. For consumers, we need to show them what they can do with it. Imagine Laser Games with AR technology. Imagine treasure hunts where we have to survive from hordes of monsters. Imagine just having a virtual decoration for your house.

            Also, there’s something I forgot to mention: the 6Dof technology, which has been developed for VR and AR, is actually introduced in recent smartphones. After all, inside-out tracking is a bunch of gyroscopes combined with cameras. And what’s in recent smartphones? Gyros and cameras. That’s how AR apps are able to work on smartphones. Like, in Pokemon Go, you can literally turn around the creatures, and also get closer or further. Because smartphones have 6 degrees of freedom. Which is a technology that has been mainly developed for VR this past decade. That’s another example of how VR changed our world, even though indirectly. Sure, VR headsets haven’t sold billions. But the tech inside it IS in the billions of smartphones released recently.
            EDIT : I actually hadn’t forgotten to mention that, lol.

  • Arek A

    It will be impressive software without lidar.
    IT is impresive with 1000$ phone. LOL.

  • dk

    what I imagine is what is feasible and already works today ….nreal light and lumos maximus …and passthrough ar with compact headsets with pancake leases …..and eventually holographic lens compact headsets like Holocake 2

  • Guest

    So that’s their killer app, all rich parents wearing them can clean children’s bedrooms without ever seeing the actual mess, but the bathroom is going to be a big biohazard!

  • HindsiteGenius

    This might not be used by Architects or interior designers that much as the dataset is too limited. Maybe Interiors people could find use of it on top of their drawings to quickly get to the visualization phase. Now this will be a huge benefit to virtual stagers as they only need a very basic model with holes in it so light can pour in and get contact shadows in their renderings.

    • overzeetop

      About the only value in this stuff is to have a 3d photo record, and some *very* sketchy dimensions. As someone who works in architecture, I’ve used most of the public apps for room scanning and most of them are simply terrible. The lidar scan is slow and amazingly low resolution. It’s better than nothing, but it’s far from what I would consider production quality.

  • Keng Yuan Chang

    hm, only useful when it’s within 1mm error though…

  • patfish

    These are the only reasons why I will switch after 13 years from Android to Apple :-/