Turn your iPhone into an AR headset with HoloKit X

Turn your iPhone into an AR headset with HoloKit X

By Valentina Tuta

HoloKit X is a low-cost iPhone AR headset that also represents an interesting experiment, as it is a clear demonstration of what is already possible with Apple’s AR technology today.

It is a fact that Apple has been researching and developing augmented reality for years, and the best testimony to its efforts is the iOS ARKit interface, introduced in 2017. Besides, the development environment has been constantly improved and expanded with new features in recent years and is now in its sixth iteration.

Regarding hardware, the LIDAR scanner, introduced in 2020 with the iPhone 12 Pro, already shows that Apple is testing the waters with AR technology. On the other hand, the depth sensor is responsible for the 3D rendering of space in AR apps, a basic requirement for credible augmented reality, as Apple’s FloorPlan shows.

While the company plans to unveil its own mixed reality headset in early 2023 (which allows capturing the environment using cameras and displaying it on opaque screens where it can be augmented with AR elements), with ARKit, Apple has already laid the most important software foundations for such a device.

The iPhone as AR hub for a headset

In fact, this can be proven thanks to the latest tech experiment by Silicon Valley developer Botao Amber Hu, whose startup, Holo Interactive, set about the task of creating a headstand made of plastic and a pair of lenses into which a recent iPhone is inserted.

You see, this turns the stand and smartphone into an inexpensive augmented reality headset powered by Apple’s ARKit. Moreover, the only piece of electronics in the plastic cradle is an NFC sensor, while your iPhone handset provides everything else.

Moreover, AR projections are reflected in the view through the iPhone screen from above, so users can see the world through glass and, at the same time, stereoscopic augmented reality elements in a 60-degree field of view.

Additionally, thanks to the iPhone camera and ARKit, the AR headset supports spatial tracking. As you’ll see, the iOS AirDrop feature enables local multiplayer AR games as well as a viewer view that allows users to hold their iPhone or iPad in the scene and automatically see the overlapping AR elements.

Manual tracking is supported as well, and an Apple Watch becomes a simple motion controller if needed. Apple’s 3D audio technology with matching headphones provides spatial sound.

iPhone AR headset is available now

Obviously, the idea of a smartphone holder for virtual or augmented reality is not very novel, but what makes Holokit X special is its clever implementation of Apple’s AR features which, as a result, shows what would theoretically be possible if Apple combined all the AR components of the last few years into a single headset.

According to a practice from the tech magazine Wired, the image is “clear, colorful, and quite sharp,” and the headset itself is surprisingly comfortable to wear, even with real glasses.

Moving on to the price, the HoloKit X costs $129 and can be purchased from the official website. Moreover, it is compatible with all newer iPhones, except the iPhone Mini and iPhone SE. However, Holo Interactive recommends Pro models with LIDAR scanners, as different models will have reduced 3D perception, although a depth camera is not really a requirement.

As an added bonus, this AR headset can even connect to a PlayStation or Xbox controller, an Apple Magic Keyboard, or any Bluetooth device that connects to an iPhone. Nevertheless, AR content on the platform is still limited to a few AR apps and games.

Finally, although the hardware is final, the software is still under development. Although the team wants to release the Holokit app on the App Store by the end of November, So by then, more AR experiences should be added as well.

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