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5 Top Augmented Reality Tools for App Development

Augmented Reality is one of the most impressive and growing technologies of the last years. The AR technology is used by different devices and platforms that have own requirements and own SDKs. Let's clarify what software do you need to develop AR apps for any platforms.
Nov 22, 2019
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Anyone who has ever sat in the chair and role of a software developer was likely astounded when they first learned how much effort and work goes into the development of an app. There are many concerns to keep in mind and address in even the simplest apps (such as scalability, compatibility, resource consumption), and when it comes to complex apps that incorporate 3D graphics, advanced functionality and innovative technologies like augmented reality (AR), the development process can seem like a hopelessly tangled web of threads, all of which need to be tied together to make something unitary. This is where SDKs come in.

What is AR SDK?

augmented reality SDK

SDK is a kind of augmented reality software and it stands for Software Developer Kit and is essentially a bundle of programs and software used to develop other software.

If the development process is a web, then SDKs are the tools you can use to deal with the tangled threads, organize them, and turn them into something different.

The main advantage of SDKs is that they allow developers to apply typical and time-tested solutions and shortcuts in development, instead of solving all generic and typical problems individually and spending time on them. Augmented reality simulation is no simple matter, and developing it requires the proper tools. We will examine 5 tools for AR creation that are popular and valued in the AR development community.

Our Top 5 Augmented Reality Development tools

1. Vuforia

Vuforia is an augmented reality SDK that sits near the top of most “Top AR” lists, and with good reason. Vuforia offers a range of products for developing AR experiences, including Vuforia Engine, Studio, and Chalk. The software supports the creation of both marker-based and markerless AR and has several key features that make it one of the best for object recognition and 3D modeling. These features include Ground Plane (for adding content to horizontal surfaces), Visual Camera (expands supported visual sources beyond mobile phones and tablets), and VuMarks (custom markers that can be used in Vuforia face recognition and also encode data).

2. Wikitude

Wikitude is another great choice for AR software development. It is a relative newcomer to the market, with the company being founded in 2008, but has already earned a solid reputation. In fact, the debate of Vuforia vs Wikitude has become quite active recently. Wikitude is suitable for developing AR apps for iOS, Android, and Smart Glasses devices. Like most top AR development programs, Wikitude supports a variety of tracking methods and technologies, but also incorporates geolocation, cloud recognition, and distance-based scaling features.

3. ARKit

ARKit is the go-to application for the development of AR software developed by Apple, so it is not possible to use ARKit on android phones. The software relies on camera sensor data and additional data (e.g. from a gyroscope and accelerometer) to detect and analyze users’ surroundings for AR visualization. ARKit also supports fast motion tracking, face tracking, Quick Look (displaying models and scenes that can be moved and scaled easily), and various rendering effects. Apple has worked hard to keep AR easy and understandable for developers, releasing ARKit tutorial materials and updates (ARKit 1.5 , ARKit 2 , ARKit 3) with every new version of iOS.

4. ARCore

ARCore is in many ways an analog of ARKit – another application developed by the creators of a platform for devices using this platform. In this case, the company is Google, and the platform is Android. ARCore comes with the standard bundle of AR features (motion tracking, surface detection, light estimation), as well as several advanced features, such as augmented images (custom responses to specific types of 2D shapes and objects) and multiplayer (rendering of the same 3D objects on different devices simultaneously. It is also worth mentioning that ARCore is compatible with Vuforia, which allows users to make the best of functionality offered by the 2 types of software at once. Additionally, an ARCore Unity pairing is often applied to create efficient Android apps. Google has certain restrictions on which devices can run apps built on the software, and you can check whether a phone/tablet is compatible by looking at the list of ARCore Supported Devices on the Google website.

5. ARToolKit

ARToolKit is an open-source and free-to-use SDK available for AR development for devices on different platforms. Apart from Android and iOS, ARToolKit is used for AR apps on Windows, Linux, and OS X. Initially released in 1999, ARToolKit has undergone various updates. Some of the features included in the latest build are tracking of planar images and simple black squares, natural feature marker generation, real-time speed support, and easy camera calibration. ARToolKit also comes with several optional plugins for development with Unity and OpenSceneGraph.

Reflecting on the choice what AR SDK to choose

All of the aforementioned applications are well-respected among developers, and all of them have their own strengths and weaknesses, which mostly consist of supported and non-supported functions. In order to build your AR application, you should choose the tools that will best correspond to your needs. This means focusing on functionality and ease in development instead of picking the most advertised or flashy software. If you are hiring a company to develop your AR application, you will want to make sure that they have the experience necessary to deliver your project to completion and use the AR tools that best work for the project.

There are many AR development companies operating today, but since you are already here, you might want to check out our services. Program-Ace is a reputable company with over 26 years of experience in software development, including AR and VR technologies. For example, we successfully applied AR technology to create an application wherein military personnel learned how to change the wheels of different vehicles. Feel free to check out our portfolio of completed projects, and let us know if you want to discuss anything.

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