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App Development
6 minutes read

Augmented Reality App Development

By Jose Gomez
By Jose Gomez
App Development
6 minutes read

Augmented Reality app development is one of the latest HiTech trends mobile apps are taking advantage of to delight users. Augmented Reality (AR) is often assumed to be strictly an entertainment technology, but AR apps have been successful in several other industries, too, including eCommerce, MedTech, and more. 

Augmented Reality might seem out of reach for your app development project, but this is not true. AR development is more accessible than you might think, and your mobile app could likely benefit from adding Augmented Reality features. This post will explain the different types of Augmented Reality your app could include and the best tools for adding Augmented Reality features to your app. 

The Types of Augmented Reality App 

Augmented Reality apps come in two distinct types:

  • Marker-based
  • Location-based

Depending on the type of app you want to create, one of these options will be more beneficial to your project than the other. Both types of apps rely on AR technology, but they deliver results in different ways. 

Marker-Based

Marker-based Augmented Reality utilizes image recognition to deliver virtual objects. Marker-based AR apps rely on physical markers to trigger AR content. For users to see Augmented Reality content, they must point their phone's camera at the physical markers around them. The app recognizes the markers and overlays AR content on top of it on the user’s screen. 

To create a marker-based AR app, developers must include images of all markers and their corresponding AR displays. Depending on the number of markers and AR content you intend to include, this can be a time-consuming process. However, since objects are hard-coded into your app, they are easier to detect and display faster, leading to a crisp User Experience. 

Marker-based AR apps tend to be easier to make than location-based apps. As a result, the majority of Augmented Reality applications are marker-based. These apps are especially popular in the advertising industry and have gained popularity in many other industries in recent years too. 

Location-Based 

Location-based Augmented Reality is more sophisticated than marker-based AR. Instead of relying on physical markers, location-based AR apps use a device’s GPS, accelerometer, and/or digital compass to overlay Augmented Reality content on top of a user’s surroundings. The most famous and successful example of location-based AR is the popular mobile app game Pokemon Go. 

What makes location-based Augmented Reality so sophisticated is that it can send users notifications based on their physical location and unique AR content based on their surroundings. This could be used to create various apps, from better mapping apps to eCommerce apps and more.

Augmented Reality SDKs for Mobile Apps

To add Augmented Reality features to your mobile app, you will have to use an Augmented Reality SDK. SDK stands for software development kit. It will include everything you need to create the features you are looking for, from APIs and code libraries to tutorials and debugging tools. Creating Augmented Reality features is no small task. SDKs help simplify this process as much as possible. 

There are a lot of different SDKs available, but some of the most popular Augmented Reality SDKs are:

  • ARToolKit
  • Vuforia 
  • ARKit
  • ARCore 

ARToolKit 

ARToolKit is one of the most popular AR SDKs because it is open-source and free to use. In addition, this SDK has a very rich library of features that includes support for OpenSceneGraph, Unity3D, multiple languages, and device compass and GPS tools. As a result, developers can use ARToolKit to create marker-based or real-time location-based AR apps. 

ARToolKit also features automatic camera calibration and support for single or dual cameras. No matter what device or platform you want to build for ARToolKit has the specific tools you need. This SDK also provides integration with smart glasses. You will be hard-pressed to find an AR SDK that supports as many platforms and devices as ARToolKit. For example, Android, iOS, macOS, Windows, and Linux are all supported by this SDK. 

Vuforia 

Vuforia is often considered the best Augmented Reality SDK due to its robust set of features and libraries. Users can create 3D geometric maps of any environment by using Vuforia’s smart terrain feature. In addition, Vuforia provides tools that can recognize over 100,000 words, custom vocabulary, and a wide array of shapes and objects. 

This SDK also gives developers the ability to turn static images into moving images that can be played on any target surface. Additionally, developers are given the ability to create custom QR-codes called VuMarks. Vuforia supports local and cloud storage, and it also provides a plugin for the Unity platform. 

Vuforia can be used to create AR apps for iOS, Android, Windows, and Unity platforms. There is a free version of Vuforia that anyone can use, but if you want to unlock all of the features of this SDK, you will have to pay a fee. If you want cloud storage features, this is a monthly subscription fee. 

ARKit 

When Apple introduced iOS11, the company also announced ARKit. ARKit is Apple’s Augmented Reality SDK. While ARKit is specific to iOS, this SDK also offers integrations with Unity and Unreal Engine. ARKit has several high-end AR features, including Visual Inertial Odometry, which facilitates accurate environment tracking without recalibration and face tracking that gives users the ability to add facial expressions to 3D characters. 

ARKit is adept at tracking the light levels of an environment, so the proper amount of lighting is applied to virtual objects. It is also really good at detecting horizontal surfaces, such as floors and tables. 

ARKit is completely free for iOS developers to use. It is compatible with iOS11 and later, which means any device after iPhone 6 will be able to use apps built with ARKit. This also includes all iPads released after 2017 too. 

ARCore 

If Apple has an Augmented Reality SDK, you know that Google would not miss an opportunity to create one too. ARCore is an Augmented Reality SDK for Android development. ARCore also works with Unity, Unreal, and Java OpenGL. 

The core features of this SDK include motion tracking, environmental understanding, and light estimation. Using these three features in unison, ARCore can help developers build apps that place virtual objects accurately within an environment and match the ambient lighting. 

ARCore is free for Android developers to use. It was designed to be compatible with devices running Android 7.0 and later. 

Final Thoughts 

Augmented Reality apps have been delighting users for years, but recently, the development tools used to create these apps and the devices running them have improved. The result is that AR capabilities have advanced significantly. If you’re interested in developing an app that uses Augmented Reality, reach out to an app development partner. Augmented Reality app development might seem like it is out of your reach, but with the right partner, you can create a stunning AR app.

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