This new conferencing app is an incredible example of how Apple’s next big thing can help your everyday life

Vuforia's Chalk app uses Apple's ARKit software framework.

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Vuforia’s Chalk app uses Apple’s ARKit software framework.
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Vuforia

Before tech giants like Apple and Google started talking about augmented reality as the future of technology, Vuforia was one of the few companies that was actually making AR software.

Vuforia, a former Qualcomm subsidiary now owned by PTC, isn’t a household name because it didn’t make its own apps. Instead, it provided technology for other companies who wanted to make apps that integrated computer graphics and the real world.

On Monday, Vuforia launched its first app called Chalk. It’s a videoconferencing app, but unlike existing services like FaceTime or Skype, it allows users to circle and point out interesting features in real-time.

One way to use Chalk, Jay Wright, president of Vuforia at PTC explains, is tech help for your family. While you’re videoconferencing through Chalk, you can, say, circle the right remote, or point out the “little thingy at the bottom” that’s causing the problem.

Vuforia uses its augmented-reality technology to allow digital graphics to stay stuck to where they were drawn in real life. It’s a simple app – just videoconferencing, plus drawing on the real world.

“Not only is this the best use of augmented-reality technology we’ve been working on, but it’s something that everyone can use, ” Vuforia President Jay Wright told Business Insider.

Chalk is free to consumers, but Vuforia hopes to sell the underlying technology to other businesses for tech support and other uses.

For now, Vuforia Chalk uses Apple’s ARKit, and it’s only available for Apple phones and tablets that support ARKit and are running the latest version of iOS. But in the future, Vuforia plans to support additional devices and platforms, including Google’s Android as well as its ARCore software.

Part of Vuforia’s strategy going forward is that on devices where ARKit and ARCore are supported, it will use Apple or Google’s framework. But Vuforia will also work to bring similar AR experiences to phones that aren’t currently supported by ARKit or ARCore; if an app doesn’t support ARKit, it can use Vuforia’s AR frameworks.

“We’ve created this module with the intelligence to use the best underlying technology and deliver the right experience,” Wright said, talking about Vuforia’s developer technologies. “If you’re a developer, I don’t have to worry about ARKit, I don’t have to worry about ARCore, you can get a very comparable capability to ARKit and ARCore on even more devices.”

Here’s what using Chalk is like:


Chalk is a videoconference app. You call someone else with the app to get started using it.

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Vuforia

But instead of the app putting you face-to-face, one side is supposed to use their phone or tablet’s camera to look at a specific problem.

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Vuforia

Its key feature is it allows one side to draw over what the other participant’s camera sees. In this case, the person on the left is telling the other side how to make espresso.

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Vuforia

Both sides see the work to be done at the same time, and when one side draws on the image, the other participant sees it, too.

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Vuforia

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Vuforia

For consumers, it’s free, but Vuforia eventually wants to sell this software to other businesses for use in call center and help applications.

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Vuforia

The key to Chalk is that when you draw over an image, the circles or arrows you draw are fixed to points in reality, meaning that if you move your camera away and back over it, it will stay in place.

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Vuforia

Vuforia Chalk is a free download from the App Store, with Android support coming at some point in the future.

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iTunes

You can download it here.