Lego was invited on stage during Apple's WWDC keynote to show how ARKit 2 can improve augmented reality experiences when iOS 12 launches later this year.
The toy manufacturer is no stranger to AR apps, having a couple of its own already and being part of the Argos app with 3D animated versions of popular sets. However, the new AR creation app using ARKit 2 takes its experiences to an all-new level as we found when we had a play ourselves after the keynote finished.
The new "proof of concept" app built specifically for WWDC and unlikely to be released as a stand alone app itself demonstrates how companies like Lego will enable you to scan a real-world set you have built already, and then turn it into an AR game.
In the concept you can add virtual Lego pieces, characters and buildings to work alongside the set itself creating almost unlimited gaming experiences beyond the original build.
In the demo on stage and the one that Pocket-lint played with behind closed doors later (no photos sadly), we were able to add roads, vehicles, buildings, and further Lego minifigs including The Batman and Joker to a hotel set that had already been built.
The concept shows that Apple's new ARKit will be playable by up to four players at one time, each able to add extra pieces to the game, control different aspects, and interact with each other.
One of ARKit 2's main new features is multiplayer play, with different iOS 12 devices being able to view the same AR scene, each from different perspectives.
The Lego app is a great example of that in action and we were able to see things another iPad user was doing at the same time, while we explored the virtual townscape in front of us.
There is no word yet on whether Lego will use this project to create a fully fledged ARKit 2-enabled app, but even if they do, we know that it won't be until iOS 12 has arrived this autumn.
The really promising news here though, is that you won't have to buy specific AR Lego sets for it to work. That opens up the potential of bringing AR experiences to the hundreds of Lego sets already available if Lego is willing to create games and experiences to go with them. It also means we could easily see an AR version of the Lego Millennium Falcon for example, or Other Lego City sets that come to life with the help of the iPhone or iPad.
A quick go with the new technology certainly shows the potential.
The app was incredibly smooth and responsive with us able to dive down to street level to see things that were happening, put out a fire, save some juggling clowns (literally) on the roof, and then pack the game away before returning where we left off - something that hasn't been possible up to now.
Although there will be some hesitance about combining virtual play with traditional play and the idea of poking an iPad in front of a Lego build, we can see there is huge potential here, especially with multiplayer support and especially if, as we suspect, in the future you'd be able to transfer the AR technology to a pair of glasses that you wear rather than a clunky iPad.
This is one of the best uses of AR we've seen yet.