What is USDZ and why you should care - Apple's AR kit explained

AR is coming to a device near you! Let's get you prepped.

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With the release of the AR kit and USDZ soon enabling every iPhone and iPad user with iOS 12 to view AR files when reading or shopping online, Apple is working hard to make AR a seamless part of our world, and we are here for it! 

It's time to familiarize yourself with Apple's offering and learn how you can use it for your brand. Augmented reality is poised to disrupt how we interact with content online. 

What is a USDZ file? 

USDZ is a 3D file format that shows up as AR content on a website when you click on it while reading the news or shopping. It is also used in iOS AR apps. It's like a PNG for 3D, with optimizations for storage and sharing. 

What is great about it is that all the new Apple devices with iOS 12 will be able to project these files automatically. USDZ is quite a rich format that can display vivid and detailed objects as well as animations. Pixar created this file, so you can be sure it will look stunning.
Read the file specs from Pixar here.

What is the AR kit 2.0?

It is the kit for building AR experiences. Designers can use it to create AR apps. With the newest version - ARKit 2.0 on iOS 12 - AR apps can now be experienced by multiple users simultaneously and resumed at a later time in the same state. You can also incorporate real-world objects into your AR experiences, giving your users even greater immersive opportunities. The real-world objects are projected thanks to the AR Quick look which is a built-in feature of iOS 12. 

This built-in technology will enable users to seamlessly view AR content on their devices without having to download any additional apps. It will be a natural, new part of their browsing experience. The final version of the iOS 12 for the public should be introduced at Apple's next Special event on September 17.

The only thing missing from the AR kit is an AR content creation tool - or a 3D content creation tool to be more precise. You need to create the 3D models (in USDZ format) to build your AR experience. Use Vectary, if you want a powerful and straightforward tool that is easy to learn.  

Download the AR kit from Apple's website. 

What is the AR Quick Look?

The AR Quick Look is a viewer, which means that it enables users to view AR content in the real world. It will be built in to iOS 12 so that users of these devices can view AR files when visiting your online store, for instance.

All you need to do is get and incorporate 3D models on your website or in your app. Learn the best practices for preparing 3D models for AR, and see how to deliver USDZ content for viewing across Safari, Mail, Messages, and other built-in apps from David Lui who introduced it at Apple's WWDC 2018 conference.

Want to see some more UDSZ examples? 

Visit Apple's Quick Look Gallery on iOS 12 to see AR files.

The next thing you need: 3D / AR content

With all of these tools to create AR apps and make AR content a regular part of browsing the internet, shopping, reading or even navigation, the next thing you'll need is lots of good AR content, and a tool to create this content easily. 

Right now you can choose from a variety of pro 3D software. The only issue with pro software is that it is a very challenging entry-point for people who want to get into AR now and start creating 3D content for iOS 12 devices.

The best option right now is to start with a simple and powerful 3D tool like Vectary, that enables designers and non-designers to quickly create 3D models and AR content. With Vectary you can create by drag and drop and pull from an extensive library of ready-made 3D objects. Advanced users can create mesh 3D models from scratch in the Edit mode. Try the free version of Vectary here

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Drag and drop 3D modeling in Vectary

Export and convert USDZ files online with Vectary 

Vectary is able to export USDZ files ready for the AR kit or AR Quick Look. Learn how to create / export USDZ files with Vectary.

Right now you can export your 3D work as OBJ and create USDZ files by converting OBJ files with a command line tool in Xcode 10.

This route is far too complicated for people who are not professional developers yet still want to include 3D models on their website. 

Using Vectary to create USDZ files with one click is a much quicker and easier route for industries like e-commerce. 

Why should you care? 

AR apps and content are quickly improving now that available tools such as the AR kit, ARC code or Vectary are available to designers. Apple devices being able to naturally display AR content will give brands the opportunity to impress their customers with entertaining and useful new offerings.

Snapchat has managed to give us some of the first AR ads and is working on this good-looking AR-enabled sunglasses model; Magic Leap has come out with their headset and Google introduced the ARCore for Android apps. New York Times has also incorporated Fashion Week-related AR content into their app. Looks like it's happening.

Ready for iOS 12? Start creating AR content today

Learn easy 3D modeling using our tutorials or start by editing one of our templates to get familiar with the 3D design.  

AR can seem intimidating at first, but with the right tools, you will be able to add 3D content to your website or app very quickly. 

Tune in on September 17 to watch Apple's Special Event where the new devices and iOS 12 will be revealed.