Morpholio's Perspective Finder tool can locate the vanishing point of a scene via an iPad or iPhone camera, allowing designers to sketch over an environment accurately.
Jim Keen courtesy Morpholio Morpholio's Perspective Finder tool can locate the vanishing point of a scene via an iPad or iPhone camera, allowing designers to sketch over an environment accurately.

One of the most buzzed-about features of Apple’s new iOS 11 is ARKit, an augmented reality (AR) framework that uses an iPhone's or iPad’s camera to capture data about its surrounding environment. Introduced in June at the Worldwide Developer Conference, the framework allows third-party developers to leverage the software’s use of SLAM (Simultaneous Localization and Mapping) technology to identify horizontal surfaces, record light levels, and measure distances automatically.

ARKit’s take on SLAM technology raises the bar on existing augmented reality platforms, which often combined global positioning data with plane recognition and a designated marker to enhance an environment with an object, advertising, or say a Pokémon character as in the popular Pokémon Go app. A Sept. 11 Variety article notes that Apple’s SLAM technology can “recognize objects and their position relative to the camera,” such that a Pokémon character can not only appear on any given table surface, but also fall off the table if it ventures too far.

Essentially, Apple is discarding the need for apps to have a predetermined environment modeled for an enhancement to appear—or the “room model,” as a June 19 TechCrunch article describes it. Rather, the technology can now follow the “object model,” in which a mobile device can determine its surroundings by identifying the objects around it and its position among those objects, thus allowing it to add digital enhancements realistically and to scale within any space. For example, one can preview how a 3D model of furniture will appear in an office or take field measurements with a digital measuring tape, using apps such as MeasureKit.

The New York–based design-and-software-development team Morpholio is leveraging iOS 11’s ARKit capabilities by launching two tools for its growing suite of apps for the creative community: Perspective Finder and Color Capture.

For use with the Morpholio Trace app (iOS, free with in-app features available for purchase), Perspective Finder allows designers to overlay any setting viewed through an iPhone’s or iPad’s camera with a perspective grid that is automatically generated to scale. The tool also identifies the grid’s vanishing points and horizon lines. A designer can then use the grid as an accurate drawing guide.

Morpholio's AR tool Perspective Finder
Courtesy Morpholio Morpholio's AR tool Perspective Finder

To generate the perspective grid, users must launch Morpholio Trace’s AR Camera tool and move the device side to side for the app to register surrounding surfaces. Once a digital grid appears, users can rotate and align the grid with a reference horizontal surface, such as the edge of a table or a windowsill. The grid overlay will then dynamically change in perspective and scale as seen through the device as one navigates about the space or repositions the image frame. Users can also specify the gridlines spacing, and the device’s AR capabilities will adjust the overlay accordingly. “The game changer is being able to cast these grids on any scene, anytime, making it easy to visualize, measure and sketch your intervention,” according to the company’s press release.

Upon finding a desired perspective on which to sketch over, users can take a snapshot and Trace will set up a drawing board with the background image, perspective grid, and vanishing points established. Morpholio’s press release states that its developers are working on a future capability that will turn one’s sketches into augmented reality. For example, users will be able to see and walk about an island or bar that they sketched into an existing kitchen via Trace.

Meanwhile, Morpholio’s Color Capture feature for its Board app (iOS, free with in-app purchases) allows users to record and extract a color from their real-time surroundings using their iPhone’s or iPad’s camera. The app displays the RGB color values of that swatch and adds the swatch into the Board gallery, allowing users to view it in different lighting conditions and curate complementing interior design products in the app’s curated gallery of manufacturer products. “You can make the palette your own by bringing the swatches to your mood board and using them to select matching furniture, fabrics, fixtures, and finishes,” says Morpholio co-founder Mark Collins in the team's press release. “Bring the outside in by selecting shades from your garden or favorite landscape to pick paint for your home.”

Color Capture, Morpholio's AR tool for its Board app
Courtesy Morpholio Color Capture, Morpholio's AR tool for its Board app

To source swatches from the real world, users need to launch the AR Camera tool in Board and register surfaces, again, by moving the device side to side. Then they can tap and hold an area with the color they wish to record through a magnifying ring that appears on their device screen. Digital color swatch bubbles, labeled with their RGB values, then appear over the sampled color. Users can change the shape of these spheres into different forms, such as a cube, or walk about their space and see, via their device screen, how light affects the color.

Sourcing colors from the real world using Morpholio's AR Color Capture tool for its Board app
Courtesy Morpholio Sourcing colors from the real world using Morpholio's AR Color Capture tool for its Board app

Users can send the swatches to their Board gallery and pull up the Color Seed tool to find commercial products and furniture that complement the swatches. Board also allows user to adjust a swatch’s brightness, contrast, hue, and saturation.

By leveraging Apple iOS 11’s ARKit technology, Morpholio gives designers the ability to garner inspiration literally from the real world and augment their surroundings quickly and accurately.