Our first blog on Augmented Reality focused on its history, features and capabilities. It also considered the functions of ARToolKits and briefly touched upon the options available for developers. Here, we will look in more detail at the different toolkits offered by various providers, assessing their features, and weighing up their advantages and disadvantages.
Launched as an open source code, this toolkit was eventually acquired by Daqri, which now provides a commercialised version. The SDK works across various platforms, including Android, iOS, Windows, Linux, Mac OS X and SGI. Among the kit’s capabilities are black square and planar image tracking, 2D image recognition, camera calibration and optical HMD display support. However, due to its open source nature, documentation of its libraries is rather weak.
Vuforia, which is supported on Android, iOS, UWP and Unity Editor, boasts the following features:
- facilitation of scanning of targeted objects using Vuforia Object Scanner
- Integration of powerful plugins at various levels
- Incorporation of virtual buttons and the ability to map additional elements via OpenGL
On the downside, Vuforia’s framework is incomplete, making it harder for developers working with it for the first time to get to grips with it. Free versions of the software, meanwhile, are not particularly flexible to work with. They are also less suited to cloud platforms and carry watermark.
Wikitude, another powerful library, allows developers to create AR apps with next level functions. These include the ability to reconstruct real-world landmarks on virtual maps, the facilitation of AR gaming, and real time searching of events, articles and social media posts. The kit can be used in both Android and iOS, and supports Unity. Moreover, the documentation of the library is well-structured and elaborate. Developers can avail of free versions initially before upgrading to premium versions, which are chargeable on a regular basis. Wikitude’s features include image recognition and tracking, 2D and 3D tracking technology, GEO data, cloud recognition and HTML augmentation.
Apple’s ARToolKit, known as the ARKit, has been doing the rounds for quite some time, and was officially acknowledged at the WWDC 2017. ARKit uses Visual Inertial Odometry (VIO) to track the space around Apple’s devices, including iPads or iPhones. This allows the devices to sense empty spaces while in motion. In addition, the kit is capable of analysing room layouts and detecting horizontal planes like tables and floors. This means virtual objects can be placed on those surfaces. Take, for instance, IKEA’s new app, developed using ARKit. This enables customers to visualise the placement and positioning of furniture on planes and empty spaces before making purchases.
ARCore, Google’s toolkit, is available on Android 7.0 Nougat and all more recent operating systems. Developers can use it for building apps for the Pixel, Galaxy S8 or any other OEM devices. ARCore supports other 3D tools from Google like Blocks and Tilt Brush, as well as gaming projects from the likes of Epic Games, Niantic (the builders of Pokemon Go) and Wayfair. Given Android’s huge market base - millions of devices are powered by the platform - the toolkit has the potential to become the biggest in the world.
Our white paper on ARToolkits discusses a variety of options for developers. It also highlights the considerations involved in building ARToolkits, the different techniques for selecting them, the challenges with AR development and the future ahead. Pre-register to receive the report by September 30, 2017, 24 hours prior to general release.
Get detailed breakdowns of ARKits by signing up for our upcoming AR research piece