The augmented reality (AR) and mixed reality market was valued at $2.98 billion in 2019 and is expected to seriously keep growing — up to $27.44 billion by 2025. These data suggest that investing in AR products could bring your business increased revenues in the long run. However, questions remain regarding how to best tackle AR development, which AR technologies to choose and what factors to consider when adding AR to your product. We address these and more below.
What are the most popular AR technologies?
Before deciding on the tools, let’s go over the basic AR technologies that you can implement into your app and how they differ from one another.
This type of augmented reality is also known as image recognition or recognition-based AR. Augmentation happens when the camera recognizes a required marker. An image, an object, a text or a sound — anything can be a marker. A simple example is an AR book where characters come to life when you point a smartphone camera at it.
Face AR builds the same approach as marker-based AR, however, in this case, a face serves as the marker. This type of AR has grown into its separate cluster, as it is now widely spread and applied to a variety of cases. Face AR software employs face recognition and tracking technology to let users apply 3D filters, Snapchat-like lenses, real-time makeovers, face masks and avatars to augment user appearances.
Example: Banuba technology, Face AR
Face AR is most commonly used in communication apps and e-commerce. For example, by pointing a camera at themselves and applying various filters, masks and backgrounds, users can modify the way they look during a video chat. This makes the experience of everyday communication more immersive and fun. In e-commerce, face AR lets users virtually try on various products, all in real-time, to see whether the product fits before making a purchase.
This AR technology uses a smartphone’s GPS, camera, compass and accelerometer to tie an object to a specific area. When users are in this area, they can see AR content on their screens and interact with it. The most prominent example is Pokemon GO, where virtual creatures were displayed on the map if a user was nearby.
Frequently referred to as spatial AR, this technology allows the rendering of virtual objects in a physical space on or around the user. Activation happens when a user touches a surface lit by a projector to interact with virtual objects that are integrated into the environment. Users and virtual objects can move within a specified zone in the area where the projector and camera are placed.
In this case, users can modify or replace original objects when pointing their device. An object must first be recognized by an app, like in marker-based AR. However, superimposition also accounts for location, orientation and movement, which is more than simply recognizing a marker. Augmented visualizations of historical monuments, clothes try-on features and virtual car tours are good examples of this technology.
Types of AR software
Understanding what types of software are available in the AR market will help you choose the most appropriate one for the project at hand. Let’s have a closer look at the current AR software landscape.
Open source AR software
This kind of software, such as ARCore from Google or ARKit from Apple, is publicly accessible for everyone. You can access the source code to adjust it to any product or service. However, limited technical supports and narrower device and platform support come as downsides. Compared to proprietary software, it offers basic coding patterns, not production-ready features. Developing an AR app with open-source software requires more development time and involves more risks.
- It’s publicly accessible for everyone to use, modify and share.
- Developers can access the source code to adjust it to any product or service.
- It’s free or cheaper than commercial products.
Proprietary AR software
Proprietary AR software is typically designed with a smaller scope of features. It offers better usability, more stability and professional tech support than open-source products.
- Ready-to-use features that you can easily integrate into your app.
- Development time is significantly reduced compared to open source.
- Dedicated tech support resolves issues promptly.
- Thoroughly tested and well-documented.
- Usually supports more platforms and devices than open-source.
Understanding the difference between AR SDK and AR Platform
AR Software development kits (SDKs), as well as AR platforms, can be both proprietary and open source.
SDKs offer a set of tools and programs for software development. They contain ready-made pieces of code, debuggers, layout and graphical elements, and an Application Programming Interface (API), all of which facilitate building and customizing an app for specific needs and purposes.
AR platforms are more than simply a set of features wrapped in code, and they offer significantly more than SDKs. Beyond a set of development tools, AR platforms offer additional assets, such as unique content libraries, app infrastructure and so on.
As a result, SDKs and AR platforms save time, money and effort when compared to custom software development. In addition, they are being constantly enhanced and updated to ease the development process.
Things you should consider when choosing AR software
In most cases, AR development is both pricey and time-consuming. These are the reasons why developers often choose ready-to-use SDKs, that save their resources on integrating AR into their products or services. Let us explain with the example of our Face AR SDK how exactly each factor may influence the app development process.
If you need a quick product launch to occupy a niche or gain a competitive advantage in the market, then a proprietary SDK could be the best option. Our SDK significantly saves development time with face AR features, which can be quickly integrated into your app. In-house development, on the other hand, can take months or even years before these features become fully operational.
Some open-source solutions, such as OpenCV (Open Source Computer Vision Library), provide you with a set of ready-to-use features and modules that can give you a good start. However, in the long run, they require more investments in the development process. In contrast, proprietary SDK licensing costs are known in advance, enabling more transparent planning. Such software solutions let you seamlessly integrate AR features into your app at any developmental stage.
Using open-source AR software could be enough for introducing basic AR technologies. However, creating original AR content, like AR masks, avatars, pieces of furniture or virtual surface enhancements takes additional effort and may lead to even more expenditures and lost time on your end.
This is especially true for face AR development, which requires significant niche experience and expertise. In this case, you can benefit from the native object libraries and tools for creating custom AR content that Banuba provides, using face filters, virtual backgrounds and other elements that we assembled in our Face Filters SDK.
Another important factor to consider is platforms (mobile, web or outdoor). The more platforms you target, the bigger is your audience. Open source SDKs, such as ARCore or ARKit, are frequently limited to a single platform, and in many cases, your development team is confined by the tech stack available. In contrast, proprietary solutions like ours, optimize technology for each platform.
The more features an SDK offers, the more opportunities you have to scale and improve your app in the future, adding cool new features as needed. With SDKs that are focused on solving a narrow list of tasks, scalability could become an issue. Our SDK offers a large variety of features enabling virtually any face modification using AR.
This doesn’t mean, however, you will be using all of them at the onset. But when your app grows, engaging more and more users, you will have a battery of ready-made features to tap into, introducing new experiences that users will love. Moreover, all these features come as part of a singular, well-maintained and constantly developing platform, whereas using multiple separate libraries can cause serious compatibility issues.
Best AR SDK software for your project
When it comes to choosing among the different SDKs available on the market, it all depends on your product and its core AR technologies.
In the case of Face AR, Banuba offers an enhanced tracker for improved performance, which easily recognizes faces and backgrounds even in poor light and has powerful rendering capabilities for realistic visualization. Our SDK works for multiple scenarios and cases, such as beautification and makeup try-on, and offers other ways of modifying virtual appearance with AR face masks and avatars. This is also an ideal choice when you have no internal content team, as you’ll receive access to the native content library with its ready-to-use AR filters, significantly saving time on product integration and launch.
For marker-based AR development, Vuforia provides powerful algorithms for 2D and 3D image recognition and text recognition. Wikitude provides extensive geolocation support, which lets adding location-based services to your AR app, and has a feature of extended tracking that allows it to show virtual content even when the camera loses a tracker. ARKit and ARCore are both good for markerless and superimposition-based AR, as they can detect and analyze the user's surroundings and augment them with various rendering effects.
Augmented reality allows extending, enhancing and modifying real-world objects around us via technology. New experiences, like virtual product try-on for shoes or furniture, interactive menus at restaurants or 3D projections of stars and planets in the classroom bring new ways of interacting with the world. AR is being launched in healthcare, education, tourism, commerce and basically in every field imaginable. However, introducing these technologies as part of your app requires implementing specific software.
Based on what we discussed here, several important factors should be considered when introducing AR in your product:
- There are multiple AR technologies on the market and your app can be built with any of them. The existing technologies can accommodate for almost any AR experience to your liking.
- Some of the AR technologies, such as basic marker-based AR, are easier to implement. Others, like face AR, are more difficult, as they require technological precision and high-quality content.
- Using SDKs for AR app development could save time and money, but you need to make sure you pick the right one for your project.
- Open-source SDK is free to use and customize, but in the long run, it might require significant investments.
- Proprietary software may be costly, but it saves development and launch time, is easily integrated into your app and allows for future product scalability.