Apple Opening U1 Chip to Developers With New 'Nearby Interaction' Framework

MacRumors

macrumors bot
Original poster
Apr 12, 2001
48,667
10,093


Introduced last year, the U1 chip in iPhone 11 models enables Ultra Wideband support for improved spatial awareness, but Apple has so far only used the technology to power a directional AirDrop feature in iOS 13.


In the upcoming months, that should change, as Apple has announced that it is opening up its U1 chip to developers with a new "Nearby Interaction" framework for iOS 14. This framework can stream distance and relative direction between U1-equipped devices, paving the way for some interesting new spatial-related user experiences.

Apple provides some examples:
  • A multiuser AR experience places virtual water balloons in the hands of its participants
  • A taxi or rideshare app employs a peer user's direction in real time to identify the relative locations of a driver and a customer
  • A game app enables a user to control a paddle with their device and respond to a moving ball on the peer user's screen
"Nearby Interaction" will function on an opt-in basis, with users having to grant permission for their iPhone to find and be found by nearby devices each time they open an app that incorporates the framework. Random identifiers are generated for each session.

In its video overview of the framework, Apple noted that both iPhones should be in portrait orientation to ensure accurate measurement of distance and direction. If one iPhone is in portrait orientation and the other is in landscape, this could limit the measurement capabilities, as can walls, people, pets, objects, and other obstacles between the devices.

Apple has added "Nearby Interaction" support to its Simulator tool within Xcode 12 so that developers can experiment with the framework.

Article Link: Apple Opening U1 Chip to Developers With New 'Nearby Interaction' Framework
 

GeoStructural

macrumors 6502
Oct 8, 2016
367
1,066
Colombia
How cool is this? iOS and iPad OS are slowly becoming what we always wished for. This update is so good, literally the only things missing are XCode, Final Code Pro, and Logic for iPad. And USB-C for iPhone (not software-related, I know).

The fact that XCode and the other apps have been rewritten for A-chips or ARM architecture hints that they can finally come to the iPad.

Edit: More wishes:
  • No notch on iPhone
  • Multitasking on iPhone (side-by-side, top-bottom apps)
  • Full Finder-like Files app on iPad
  • Multiplatform iMessage.
  • iMessage + Facetime in a single app.
 
Last edited:

unchecked

macrumors regular
Sep 5, 2008
201
218
Ok so the U1 chip is the difference in Apple’s implementation of Android’s Instant Apps. Is it safe to assume not all android phones have a similar proximity chip?

Wonder what are the practical advantages and how developers will make use of it.
 
  • Like
Reactions: WalterTizzano

GeoStructural

macrumors 6502
Oct 8, 2016
367
1,066
Colombia
Ok so the U1 chip is the difference in Apple’s implementation of Android’s Instant Apps. Is it safe to assume not all android phones have a similar proximity chip?

Wonder what are the practical advantages and how developers will make use of it.
The way they described it was "devices will have spatial awareness", that is Apple's lingo... basically it will be more contextual and useful, let's say you want to locate your AirPods, they show up in your house in the FindMy app, but this can really tell you where they are. Another usage scenario is the sharing of information in a crowded space, the U1 chip will let you find first the person closest to you instead of showing you a long list of everybody at the party or classroom, and finally, the integration with the unreleased AirTags and location even when offline (huge).

What you refer to "Instant Apps" is more akin to "App Clips", they may interact with the U1 chip but they are not necessarily on the same page... I am glad that Apple finally brought this functionality to iOS, Android has had it for a while, my $125 Android phone also does Picture-in-Picture effortlessly and I can't believe it took Apple so many years to implement this feature, but hey, better late than never.
 
  • Like
Reactions: WalterTizzano

PJWilkin

macrumors regular
Jun 24, 2010
168
299
Would be nice if the could use the extra bandwidth the U1 can use to make airdrop a lot, lot faster
 

luvbug

macrumors 6502
Aug 11, 2017
344
802
Getting closer every day!
I'm thinking that, in another year or two, Apple will be able to release an iPhone "SE" update that does everything 99.999% of users want for 1/3 of the cost of their "elite" models. It seems they are obsessed with cramming so many features into these new phones/iOS that a user would literally have to take an evening college course (or two) to actually understand how to make use of it all. It's a tool, not a career, Apple. And, yah, you can say "hey, you don't have to use what you don't need", which is true, but I have to pay for it, and I have to deal with the instability, insecurity, bugs, and updates that accompany that complexity, whether I use it or not. KISS is definitely *not* part of Apple's design vocabulary, these days.
 
  • Like
Reactions: macguru212

NickName99

macrumors 6502a
Nov 8, 2018
904
2,605
Too the iPhone SE 2020 doesn’t have a U1 chip, even though it has an A13 like the iPhone 11.
 

orbital~debris

macrumors 6502a
Mar 3, 2004
919
1,126
UK, Europe
I’m thinking this could be a very useful extra to apps utilising Apple’s ‘COVID-19 Exposure Logging’ framework – presuming it’s made available via that route.
 

Yr Blues

macrumors 68020
Jan 14, 2008
2,229
285
Contact Tracing panopticon. Everyone implicates everyone else for 2 week isolation prison sentences. Imagine having to shut down your business for 2 weeks for having to have crossed paths with someone. Once let out of jail, immediately do it again.

Imagine all the politicians that want it to be exempt from the law.
 

newyorksole

macrumors 601
Apr 2, 2008
4,032
4,364
New York.
How cool is this? iOS and iPad OS are slowly becoming what we always wished for. This update is so good, literally the only things missing are XCode, Final Code Pro, and Logic for iPad. And USB-C for iPhone (not software-related, I know).

The fact that XCode and the other apps have been rewritten for A-chips or ARM architecture hints that they can finally come to the iPad.

Edit: More wishes:
  • No notch on iPhone
  • Multitasking on iPhone (side-by-side, top-bottom apps)
  • Full Finder-like Files app on iPad
  • Multiplatform iMessage.
  • iMessage + Facetime in a single app.
I feel like we’ll see top/bottom apps in portrait on iPhone by next year in iOS 15. And when turned to landscape mode the apps will be side-by-side.

Here’s hoping!
 

citysnaps

macrumors 603
Oct 10, 2011
5,995
9,769
San Francisco
The protocol used in UWB (802.15.4z) has a whole 27 Mbps of data throughput. This UWB standard is made for positioning, not high speed data transfer. They can't compete against Wi-Fi at this point.
Do you happen to know if that's cast in stone long-term, or a temporary implementation? Seems 802.15.3c with greater bandwidth and 5 Gb/sec rates would be ideal for all sorts of AR uses.
 
Last edited:

konqerror

macrumors 68020
Dec 31, 2013
2,177
3,490
Do you happen to know if that's cast in stone long-term, or a temporary implementation? Seems 802.15.3c with greater bandwidth and 5 Gb/sec rates would be ideal for all sorts of AR uses.
15.3c is 60 GHz millimeter-wave, a completely different technology and band. Sort of like comparing Bluetooth with Wi-Fi.
 

GregA

macrumors 65816
Mar 14, 2003
1,245
14
Sydney Australia
Any chance "Find my (wife)" will use the U1 chips in our phones to help pinpoint which direction she is in a store?

"Find my" works pretty well to get me within 30m/100ft, even though it ignores what floor we're on and doesn't integrate with Apple's maps of the mall or compass (so I need to work out my own bearings). But it's not quite good enough.
 
Register on MacRumors! This sidebar will go away, and you'll see fewer ads.