AR developers have a variety of augmented reality platforms to choose from as they begin a project, and each has their own pros, cons, and unique capabilities. We’ll dig into a few of the top ar development platforms, and we’ll share our tips for when to use each one.
Why so many platform options?
The AR space, though burgeoning, is still pretty young compared to other technologies. There is an array of devices for users to interact with augmented reality environments. If you expect your users to utilize an app on Android smartphones or Apple devices, your best choice for each of those options will already be different. Of course, the user options don’t stop there - you might expect them to use any one of an assortment of AR glasses or headsets hitting the market, or you might even choose web browser AR. Since the industry is still young, there is very little standardization in the AR programming between each of these devices. This has prompted AR platforms to tailor their offerings, and some have specialized to meet developer needs for different use cases. The smorgasbord of augmented reality platforms today showcases a fascinating blend of capabilities, catering to different niches and tech requirements.
Top Augmented Reality Platforms
This won’t be a comprehensive list, but will cover a few top names. If you’d like to see us cover a specific platform you don’t see here, leave us a comment on the article!
Google’s AR dev platform offers cross-platform APIs for builders creating immersive experiences for a variety of environments. As a bridge connecting developers to platforms like Android, iOS, Unity, and the Web, ARCore's adaptability is its ace. Its forte lies in Android game development, and its seamless integration with Unity is a game-changer. The platform excels in deciphering a user's spatial relationship with their environment. Like all technologies, though, it still has room for growth. We’d like to see enhancements to its object scanning capabilities. Google does have a reputation for innovation, though, so we’ll be watching ARCore’s trajectory.
Catering primarily to the expansive iOS and iPadOS ecosystem, ARKit leverages the impeccable sync between Apple's hardware and software. Its suite of tools, such as Face Tracking, 3D Object Detection, and Visual Inertial Odometry, offer users an unmatched AR experience. While its exclusivity to Apple products does limit the applications for the immersive experiences created in ARKit, the platform's commitment to delivering top-tier UX is palpable.
Apple’s ARKit enables additional AR functionalities like their recently released “RoomPlan”, that uses lidar to scan and generate 3D maps of rooms.
Meta Spark Studio
Originating from Facebook, Meta's Spark AR Studio is a testament to the democratization of AR development. The platform's open-source approach invites developers from diverse backgrounds to the table. While its range of powerful tools is impressive, experiences created in Meta Spark Studio are limited to the realms of Instagram and Facebook. This might not be an issue for some developers, but it does eliminate this platform as an option for most use cases.
Vuforia is the top choice for large enterprises like Nike, and with good reason. The sophisticated platform boasts several impressive features, such as:
Image Recognition: Vuforia allows devs to create image targets that trigger specific AR content when recognized by the camera. This function has a variety of practical applications in games, industrial training, healthcare, and more.
Object Recognition and Tracking: Vuforia can recognize and track real-world objects, enabling AR apps to interact with and respond to physical objects in the environment - even as they move.
Smart Terrain: This feature allows developers to reconstruct the 3D geometry of the environment in real-time, enabling them to create more immersive and interactive games and apps.
Extended Tracking: Vuforia can seamlessly continue tracking an object even when it's no longer within the camera's field of view, improving the stability and user experience.
Vuforia does have one downside, at least for the casual creator. Licenses can get pretty expensive, up to tens of thousands of dollars per year. This framework is truly designed for enterprise projects, and we’d recommend more casual users to use AR Foundation instead.
Unity 3D’s AR Foundation is a solid go-to augmented reality development platform. It allows creators to code one time and publish apps that are ready-to-use on both iOS and Android. This framework aims to streamline the development process and reduce the need to write platform-specific code for different AR devices.
Developers can create AR experiences that involve placing virtual objects in the real world, and they can even interact with real-world objects in the environment. AR Foundation is even free for non-commercial use cases.
Polyspatial was announced recently; it will enable Unity applications to be easily ported over for Apple’s soon-to-be released Vision Pro Headset. Unity says it will give developers “access to benefits such as pass-through and Dynamic Foveated Rendering, in addition to popular Unity features like AR Foundation and XR Interaction Toolkit.”
Browser Based AR Leader, Niantic’s 8th Wall
8th Wall is a platform that provides tools and technology for creating augmented reality (AR) experiences that run directly in web browsers on mobile devices. It allows developers to build interactive and immersive AR content without requiring users to download a separate app. Instead, users can access the AR experiences by simply visiting a web page on their mobile devices.
Key features of 8th Wall include:
Markerless Image Recognition: 8th Wall supports markerless image recognition, allowing AR content to be triggered by real-world objects or images without the need for physical markers.
Surface Tracking: The platform can track surfaces and objects in the real world, enabling AR objects to interact realistically with the environment.
Interaction and Gestures: 8th Wall offers support for various interaction gestures, such as tapping, swiping, and pinching, allowing users to engage with AR content in a natural way.
Device Sensor Integration: The platform can access device sensors such as the camera, gyroscope, and accelerometer to create more dynamic and responsive AR experiences.
Cross-Platform Compatibility: 8th Wall is designed to work on a wide range of mobile devices and browsers, providing a consistent AR experience across different platforms.
Templates and Libraries: The platform offers templates, libraries, and code snippets to help developers get started quickly and build AR experiences more efficiently.
Developer Tools: 8th Wall provides a set of developer tools and resources for debugging, testing, and optimizing AR content.
8th Wall has been used by businesses and developers to create AR marketing campaigns, educational experiences, entertainment apps, and more. Its web-based approach to AR development makes it accessible and user-friendly, especially for those who want to quickly prototype and deploy AR content without the barrier of app installation.
What’s Next for AR?
Looking beyond these platforms, the future of AR is tantalizingly vast. As tech behemoths and startups alike pour resources into research and development, we can anticipate AR's deeper integration into everyday activities — be it in education, retail, entertainment, or healthcare. The platforms we've explored are merely the pioneers in a field destined for continuous evolution.
Request a free consultation, and together we’ll evaluate your needs and make sure the development platform we choose for your project empowers your vision to come to life.