I'm getting ready to welcome my first child to the world soon and have found myself measuring a lot of things as of late. Maybe that's why this video of an augmented reality measuring tape application caught my eye.
Yes, there have been other measuring tape apps in the past, but most of the ones I've seen are basically the equivalent of flashing a tiny ruler up on your smartphone's screen. This video shows something much cooler: you can actually "unfurl" a virtual roll of tape like you would a real one, while moving your phone, and watch the length increase in realtime. Meanwhile, the ruler itself remains fixed in space. This is much handier for measuring longer things. It also appears to work with objects mounted on a wall and from various angles, which is really awesome.
Made by a small (three-person) company called Laan Labs, the app is simply called AR Measure and relies on the built in sensors and A9 processor in newish models of the iPhone (6S and above). It uses Apple's new software development platform ARKit to power its impressively slick effects and measurements (ARKit is only available through the beta version of iOS 11 right now, but it's already been used to create a growing array of compelling AR demos, from zombies walking through your home to ships fighting on your carpet).
All that said, the creators of AR Measure don't advise using their app for anything that requires "high accuracy."
"Apple probably would not condone using ARKit to measure distances, and accuracy is not going to be perfect," wrote Jason Laan, a partner and developer of the company that made the app, in an email to Motherboard. "Plus, we chose the best takes to post online; the app loses tracking sometimes and returns incorrect measurements…We want to make it clear that this app should only be used to make quick, rough measurements. Although it can be very accurate, we wouldn't want anyone measuring anything where high accuracy is required."
Still, it is undeniably cool to behold (as 64,000+ YouTube views at the time of this blog will attest), and could prove useful in some cases. I emailed my home contractor this video and asked him if he would ever use something like this, and he responded: "I love it, been looking for something like that." Though when I pressed him on whether it would be better or worse than an old-fashioned physical measuring tape, he added: "I think it will be of great help for estimating…But to build something as walls, cabinets, etc will have to come back to a good brand measuring tape."
So there you have it. Even the pros are enchanted. Just not enough to switch entirely over.
AR Measure will be available with the release of iOS 11 this fall, and Laan said that he and his colleagues had not yet decided on a price.
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