Augmented reality (AR) is a virtual environment that is superimposed on the reality to endow it with more expressiveness, informativeness or simply for fun. The term “augmented reality” was coined by Thomas Codell, a Boeing researcher, about 20 years ago when the first attempts to use this technology were made. Augmented reality was first applied to output the information about the flights from electronic helmets for pilots.
Nowadays, AR is getting more and more popularity, being among the most promising mobile technologies. But why has it got its extensive development after almost 20 years of its existence? The answer is simple. Vision technologies, sensors, and good cameras appeared only a few years ago and made augmented reality so widespread. This technology achievement is applied in many industries, including education, architecture, cinematography, and, of course, game development. The majority of smartphone users have once experienced AR using Instagram face filters or the popular mobile AR game Pokémon Go.
Today, augmented reality apps are available on a variety of mobile devices. Which tools should be used for building great AR apps for iOS and Android – the most popular mobile platforms? Let’s figure out what instruments are important for those mobile application developers who want to start an AR app for smartphones and tablets.
ARCore is a Google’s platform used for creating AR apps primarily for Android. ARCore determines horizontal surfaces and monitors how the camera moves. This platform is based on the three key technologies:
- understanding the surrounding world to find horizontal surfaces and determine their size;
- motion tracing to place a virtual object on these surfaces;
- light assessment to help a virtual object deal with the real light (there are a lot of apps where virtual creatures react to the light – they either get scared in darkness or rejoice in daylight).
The apps that are built with the help of ARCore work on a wide range of existing and new Android-based devices. ARCore is the next step forward made with the aim of bringing the benefits of augmented reality to every smartphone user.
The majority of iOS developers make use of ARKit – an advanced framework which enables developers to build beautiful AR apps and games for Apple products. This instrument is capable of processing huge amounts of various data that it gets from a mobile device. With the help of the camera and motion sensors ARKit tracks motion, finds any surface and determines the light. After these data are analyzed, the developer gets the idea of the surroundings in the form of intersection points, surface coordinates and camera position in space.
The main task of ARKit is to track the surrounding world to create a virtual model of the reality. The framework recognizes the characteristics of video frames, tracks changes in their position and compares this information with the data from motion sensors. This results in a virtual model of the real world. The framework is also capable of recognizing flat horizontal surfaces and reporting their location and size. ARKit is spatially oriented and has the ability to identify surfaces in the real world, such as floors, tables, and walls.
This year Apple has presented ARKit 2, which offers even a wider functionality. It has appeared on the iOS 12 OS and offers several new features, including improved face tracking, more realistic rendering, improved 3D objects detection, and a multi-user mode.
AR today is not just a buzzword in the technology world. The emergence of this technology has changed entertainment, education and work for billions of smartphone users by creating incredible AR experiences.