Worldwide Developers Conference

First look at iOS 12: New AR features and memoji

The Lego AR game (above) lets players add a virtual game world to a Lego building, then insert characters and vehicles. Memoji (left) lets users create customised animated emojis.
The Lego AR game (above) lets players add a virtual game world to a Lego building, then insert characters and vehicles. PHOTO: APPLE
Memoji (labove) lets users create customised animated emojis.
Memoji (labove) lets users create customised animated emojis.PHOTO: APPLE

The iOS 12 - slated to be available in September for iPhones and iPads - will come with numerous new features.

They include Siri Shortcuts for third-party integrations, grouped notificationsand the new Do Not Disturb during Bedtime feature that dims the display and hides all notifications on the lock screen. And CarPlay will support third-party navigation apps such as Google Maps.

But what caught my eye is Apple's new developer kit for augmented reality (AR), the ARKit 2. It allows developers to create a persistent AR experience by adding virtual AR worlds to real-world objects. It also allows shared AR experiences, such that multiple users can see the same AR world and interact with it.

The best example is the Lego AR game. It was demoed during the Worldwide Developers Conference keynote and I got to try it a day later. And after playing it, I think this is the future of AR.

You start the game by pointing your device at a Lego building, which activates the game world. You can add characters - like a Lego Batman - and vehicles into the AR world. You can then control them and get them to finish tasks such as putting out a fire or rescuing people from the fire.

I can already imagine Lego coming up with Star Wars-themed sets, so you can control Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker with TIE Fighter and X-Wing starships. Not to mention, Pokemon Go might finally see a player-versus-player battle using this new AR technology.

In iOS 12 is an Apple AR app called Measure, which you can use to measure objects by plotting a virtual line from one point to another. I found it to be fairly accurate. For example, I measured the diagonal length of my 55-inch TV and the app displayed it as close to 56 inches.

Another iOS 12 feature - and it is one which I think might be the killer feature - is Memoji, which lets users create an animated emoji.

Yes, there are plenty of apps that have tried to do something similar, but I think Memoji is much more fun. It does not try to take a picture and create an animoji that looks like you. Instead, you create and customise the memoji on your own terms.

Starting with a default face, you can change your skin tone or add freckles, select a hairstyle and hair colour and choose your head shape as well as the shape and colour of your eyes.

There are three noses, six lips and 16 lip colours to choose from. You can also add facial hair and eyewear.

Somehow, I managed to create a memoji that looks like a cute anime version of myself. Of course, you can go to the other extreme of creating something that does not look like you at all. It is up to you.

Once you have created your memoji, you can save and use it on iMessage or FaceTime video chats.

Trevor Tan

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 13, 2018, with the headline 'First look at iOS 12: New AR features and memoji'. Print Edition | Subscribe