How to Develop an AR Mobile App

Augmented reality is a trendy IT industry. It is gradually conquering the mobile development market as more and more developers use this technology. Augmented reality is now in high demand, not only for entertainment but also for educational, commercial and healthcare purposes. If you want to find out how to develop an augmented reality app, you’ve come to the right place.

how much does it cost to create an AR appRetail information is added to a view of reality
Image source: Electronic Design

AR app development is full of aspects you need to have in place from the beginning. The worldwide developer community has already explored the augmented reality technology well enough to create various software development kits. At the same time, creating an AR app from scratch is still a challenging task.

We believe that the best solution nowadays is to find a suitable AR SDK to optimize and accelerate the development process. Fortunately, there are lots of frameworks, engines, and libraries, and we want to help you choose the best software for your project.

Let’s take a close look at the vital aspects of the AR development and the best augmented reality SDK solutions in the market.

Augmented Reality Types

Depending on the functionality and complexity of the user and environment interaction, we can highlight two categories of apps. Your task is to identify the AR type your software belongs to because it drastically affects the augmented reality app development cost. So, without further ado, let’s dive into AR categories!

Marker-Based Augmented Reality

This is one of the most primitive cases of using AR. This is how it works:

  1. You predetermine a pattern that a mobile app will be searching for, whether it’s a symbol, shape, color combination, etc;
  2. The app analyzes the frames to find the pattern;
  3. Upon its recognition, the app augments the environment with the graphics within the frame.

marker-based augmented realityThanks to the AR app everyone can take a look through some famous White House traditions
Image source: VRScout

Simple to implement, marker-based technology offers quite limited AR opportunities and, therefore, is the best one for beginners and small-scale software solutions.

Markerless Augmented Reality

This AR technology relies on the integrated approach to identifying the current environment and adding virtual objects. Here are some of the triggers:

  • geolocation;
  • digital compasses and accelerometers;
  • simultaneous localization and mapping.

markerless augmented realityMarkerless AR app adding furniture to the view
Image source: Plannerwire

Augmented reality app development using the markless technology is substantially more difficult than using marker-based one. At the same time, it provides extensive functionality and brings the AR interaction to a new level.

What to Look for in Augmented Reality Software Development Kits

You need to determine your mobile application requirements because every project has unique demands for budget, time and technologies. Let’s discover the main points for a comprehensive app estimation.

Mobile Platforms You Need to Support

Are you targeting a specific platform or do you want to cover as many as possible? This determines the range of the AR SDKs that will suit you. While the majority of developer tools allow Android and IOS development, some software can be platform-specific or include the full support of macOS, Windows, Linux, or UWP. Make sure you check the SDK coverage.

Smart Glasses Compatibility

Smart glasses are the source of hands-free augmented reality experiences. It’s a decent alternative to gadget displays and it provides deeper AR dive as the smart glasses augment the real world by adding virtual objects right before your eyes.

augmented reality app developmentLeading IT companies believe smartglasses will replace smartphones
Image source: Windows Central

This technology is gradually gaining popularity, so check its availability in the chosen SDK if you would like to join the trend.

Unity Support

This engine is truly advanced game development software. Created for PC and console games, it can help in AR app development too. Every SDK choice we mention supports Unity, but if you decide to pick another one, just make sure to verify this functionality.

AR app development UnityImage source: Unity 3D

If you expect awesome graphics, Unity compatibility is a necessity. Bear in mind that this engine is resource-consuming.

3D Image Tracking

The ability to recognize different 3D objects undoubtedly expands your opportunities in augmented reality app development. Complex shape recognition is a helpful feature for eCommerce mobile apps and games.

Cloud Storage

This feature enables using an immense number of markers. Since the cloud stores all AR triggers, the mobile app takes up less space on your device. At the same time, the marker range is literally unlimited, whether you decide to store a hundred, a thousand or even more markers on your cloud.

augmented reality app developerCloud storage support allows using immense number of markers
Image source: The Verge

If you rely on elaborate identification, check your SDK for cloud storage support. On the other hand, if you need just a few AR triggers, this technology is unnecessary. Just install some identification patterns directly in the app, and you’ll get software capable of working offline.

Geolocation

Essential for some markless AR solutions, this feature basically provides GPS functionality for the augmented reality app developer.

AR app development geolocationPokémon Go has highlighted the power of geolocation technology
Image source: TNW

Whether you need to add some virtual POIs or track the user’s location, make sure there is geolocation support in your SDK choice.

Simultaneous Localization and Mapping

SLAM is a cutting-edge technology for mapping the surrounding environment. What’s more important, it tracks your movements and the device’s position on the environment map. How can this super powerful and seemingly over complicated technology bring value worth the resources it consumes?

app like IKEAAn app might include 3D and true-to-scale models of different products
Image source: IKEA

If you plan on creating an advanced app like IKEA Place, you need to add virtual objects to specific spots and, more importantly, monitor the device movements for correct display. It’s innovative, it’s fresh, and it’s breathtaking. Without needing GPS, it works fine indoors and expands the AR technology potential.

Licensing

Last but not least, licensing and subscription plans define SDK affordability for you. While the better part of our software solutions offer both free and paid licenses, some of them are either available only commercially or free of charge. We understand the significance, because so much depends on the question developers are most frequently asked, “How much does it cost to create an AR app?” Therefore, we include both commercial and free tool kits on our list.

Best Tools for AR App Development

Now that you have determined your functionality requirements and budget/time resources, it’s time for a brief review of the top high-quality AR SDKs on the market.

Kudan

Kudan is a powerful augmented reality SDK for iOS and Android. Unity support along with the KudanCV engine make this software a flexible high-performance tool. It’s compatible with SLAM and recognizes 2D and 3D objects.

AR app development KudanImage source: Bloodhound SSC

Kudan offers a minimum memory footprint, which is an indisputable advantage. What’s more important, this software supplier provides both commercial and free watermarked licenses.

To sum up, Kudan is all about:

  • High-performance engine;
  • 3D tracking;
  • SLAM functionality;
  • Free and paid plans;
  • Android and iOS platforms.

Vuforia

One of the most popular SDKs, Vuforia provides extensive AR capabilities for developers. Apart from 3D tracking features, this tool recognizes text with its 100k word vocabulary or with your custom one. VuMarks — Vuforia bar codes — both encode data and act as markers.

AR app development VuforiaImage source: Vuforia

The Vuforia trump card is a button projection feature that allows creating a touchscreen on almost every flat surface. Cloud recognition, video playback — all these aspects make Vuforia stand out among the competition.

On the whole, Vuforia provides the following AR capabilities:

  • Text recognition;
  • Vuforia bar codes;
  • Video playback;
  • Touchscreen projection;
  • 3D object track;
  • Cloud recognition;
  • iOS, Android and UWP platforms.

Apple ARKit

iOS developers will truly appreciate this toolkit. Apple did its best to create a convenient AR development experience.

AR app development Apple ARKitImage source: Augmentes

Let’s review its functionality:

  • Unreal and Unity support. These powerful engines are the giants of graphic excellence. It’s pretty useful to have them integrated into your tool.
  • Visual Inertial Odometry. Complex computer vision and frame analysis of ARKit precisely track even the slightest movement of the device.
  • Plane detection. The ability to detect horizontal planes in a scanned environment is a helpful feature for environment recognition.
  • Lighting estimation. Virtual objects become unbelievably realistic with this functionality as it estimates the amount of light in the real world and projects virtual light on the units you build.

If you are an iOS developer curious how to make an augmented reality app with minimum pain and maximum productivity, consider Apple ARKit as your assistant in the development process. It’s completely free of charge.

ARToolKit

ARToolKit is an astonishing open-source SDK for multiple platforms.

AR app development ARToolKitImage source: Wikipedia

Let’s highlight the top ARToolKit features worth mentioning:

  • Free and open-source software. Projects with tight budgets and beginner developers require tools like ARToolKit to implement their ideas.
  • Broad range of available platforms. Windows, Android, iOS, macOS, Linux — is there anything else?
  • Dual camera support. Some devices have this equipment, and ARToolKit knows well how to handle it.
  • Geolocation integration. Location-based applications won’t feel a lack of GPS functionality with this toolkit.

The Bottom Line

Augmented reality applications are trendy nowadays. It’s the right time to jump into this industry to capture the leading positions. Whether you hire AR experts or develop the project yourself, make sure you choose suitable technologies for your requirements.

Still feel uncertain about the SDK choice or need professional assistance? Contact us right away and implement your idea with our extensive AR expertise. Let’s make the first step towards your success together!