Yesterday a chart of the Top ARKit-only Apps Worldwide (by SensorTower) was brought to my attention. That chart that reflects data from January 12 through February 21, 2018, shows an app called Skrite as the first place of the top free ARKit apps.
Well, I was interested to see what the fuss is all about so I’ve decided to download it and give it a try. By the way, I was able to use the app on my iPhone 5S as well, so if that app was developed using ARKit, it also has a fallback to non-ARKit supported devices, so it seems.
What is Skrite?
Skrite is an augmented reality social messaging app. Users can leave and share textual and graphic messages (also refers to as Skrites) in the world’s largest blank canvas—the sky.
Users can write text, share pictures, videos and 3D animated stickers tight to specific geo-location in the sky. Aside from that, users can also browse other user’s skrites through the built-in social browser, no matter where they are, even if they are not located at the place where the Skrite was created.
People can interact with the Skrite by either commenting, leaving a message or liking it by tapping the bolt icon. Users can also leave messages in the form of hidden skrites, so only specific people can view them. Messages that you leave live forever in the cloud and are persistent in the real world at the location where they took place.
Here’s Skrite commercial video.
How to make a Skrite?
Making a skrite is simple. All you have to do is to click the create new skrite button, tilt your phone up towards the sky and a new interface appears, letting you create a message that appears in one of the green markers that the app shows you. Those markers appear 360-degrees around where you are standing in the sky, and you can add a skrite to each one and one of them.
Browsing other people’s Skrites
Browsing other people’s skrites is a fun experience. However, I found out that those 360-degree panorama images are actual images taken directly from Google street view. I went to Google maps to verify this.
Obviously, to create a 360-degree panorama, the app needs to scan the area and I personally haven’t done so. I also don’t think that the app will do it by itself without prompting me about it. The quality will also vary based on the user’s camera, weather, and lighting conditions, etc. Using Google street view make it much easier and you don’t need to maintain all those 360-degree images yourself.
The skrites are positioned at the location where they were shot on top of the 360-degree panoramic images. The images are in high-quality because they were shot by Google and you get to see the skrite in good lighting conditions and great clarity.
Tapping on a skrite within the 360-degree panorama image will bring up a larger view of the skrite, whether it’s an image, a text message, etc.
Here is me playing around with the app while walking in the streets of Seoul.
Skrite in the Sky instead of the Ground
The good thing about having the messages appear in the sky than on the ground is because it’s easier to see them, there are less distracting elements.
However, I think it would be more interesting if the browser would have shown the messages with an image as the message was written at. So if it was written at night, you would see a night scene, rather seeing it in daylight.
By the way, writing messages in the sky doesn’t mean that you only get to see the sky. It is just that the small clickable icons that represented the message appear at the top of the image where the sky is located, but you can still see other things like buildings and roads in the buildings.
Skrite is still limited in functionality. It may be the type of app that would be seamless with AR glasses. Right now, with its limited feature, I wasn’t motivated enough to launch it and check out other people’s messages. The stickers are kind of cliche and not interesting. It also feels cumbersome to use compared to just browsing images with straight-on stickers.
Using the app felt more of a hassle. You need to click the skrite than rotate to locate the icons, tap on it to see something that it’s really not that interesting.
I can definitely see a commercial use for this as well. Like people advertising their good and sales, but it then has to be very accurate (using AR Cloud) with a direction to where the place is located. Maybe adding a line that connects the message to an accurate physical location with searching capabilities.
I did like the option to see pictures that other people were taken at the same place. It’s like looking at the past and seeing how that place looked at that time the picture was taken. That part actually was quite interesting.
I also expected to go outside, aim my phone in the air and find a few messages there. I guess not many people in Seoul are using this app. This app needs lots of users and more interesting tools to make it worthwhile. For me, at that current place and with the current features, it just wasn’t.
Skrite brought up an interesting augmented reality social network idea that will need to stand the test of time. In my experience, it wasn’t that intuitive to use, it took a few steps to see messages, the features are limited, the messages are overlayed on top of Google street view which creates a bit of discontinuity of the message at the time and place it was written.
I found myself more encourages going over other people’s creation than creating my own, although I got my first “Like” a few minutes after I posted my first Skrite (it felt good!).
I can already see the sky turning into a garbage container for all type of promotional content. So what were first beautiful skies, can turn into a huge street market for promoting goods and maybe some undesired content.
Today I woke up in the morning, getting notifications of other people who have bolted my skrites. Although for some reason, their avatar is not clickable, so I couldn’t communicate with them. I’ve also launched the app and after clicking the create skrite button, I could see my public skrites, it was fun to watch it.
I wasn’t motivated to continue using it. I guess with more public skrites in the sky and more interaction, I would be more motivated to use it. Still, it did feel more of a hassle than a gratifying social experience. Just seeing what other people are writing wasn’t satisfying. It’s like going over random messages on Facebook related to location. I haven’t done it so far, why should I do it with Skrite. I use Facebook to connect with people I know or within groups of people who have the same interest in things that I have. Right now,
Having said that, I do enjoy watching what other people are doing with this app, it’s just that the tools limit what you can create. It’s not like watching people share their cool videos with AR effects or creating cool short music videos. The creative tools are very limited and not helping to create that great content that I would have enjoyed watching. Of course contextual content relevant to a place can be great, but the app doesn’t implement it in an accurate and easy way, so the information is aligned accurately with specific street areas, attractions, places or businesses.
Skrite is a free app and I do recommend downloading and trying it out. However, until something exciting comes to it, I personally don’t see myself using it on a regular basis. I will keep an eye on this app for future update and see how it progresses.
You can download Skrite from the App Store here.