Top Augmented Reality SDKs and How to Choose the ‘Right’ One
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While AR is definitely all the buzz and rage right now, the world of AR app development is full of technical jargon and it can leave you dazed and confused. So if you’re just an interested reader who stumbled across this informative article or someone looking to have an AR app built without any know-how here’s something to start with.
Because building an augmented reality app is not without challenges. There is plenty to consider.
- What will be the most important features?
- What platform are you building on?
- What is the use case for your AR app? Will it feature markerless tracking, or will it feature face tracking or object recognition?
Once you have figured out the aforementioned, you will need to choose a befitting SDK to kick-start your AR app development project. Choosing the right AR SDK is crucial to creating AR experiences. There are a plethora of SDKs to pick from. But before we jump to choosing the right SDK or our list of the 5 best SDKs for AR app development, let me first briefly introduce what an SDK is.
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To Those Wondering What an SDK is…
The acronym stands for ‘Software Development Kit’. An SDK, or software development kit is a developer’s toolbox. Similar to your regular toolbox (you may have at your home) this one contains a downloadable set of tools that mobile app developers use to build apps. Typically, it has everything a developer may need, including libraries, sample code, tools, relevant documentation, and APIs. SDKs allow a development team to quickly put a new feature in place without building it from scratch.
Some SDKs are essential for building a platform-specific app. For example, for developing an Android app on a Java platform you will be needing a Java Development Kit, similarly, there’s an iOS SDK for iOS app development, and for Universal Windows Platform, there’s .NET Framework SDK.
There are specific SDKs for augmented reality app development too. AR SDKs or tools offer capabilities like 3D object tracking, image recognition, visual SLAM (simultaneous localization and mapping), multi-tracking, and more, allowing developers to design digital images.
Choosing the Right SDK for Augmented Reality App Development
Here’s something to understand: most Augmented Reality SDKs have several features in common, but each has a significant variation. Each SDK has a distinct functionality. It’s either the ability to track objects for some SDKs or object recognition for others. The tracking system is a core feature all AR SDKs typically have in common.
Only by evaluating the most critical factors relevant to your AR app can you decide which is the “right” one. Here are some of the most essential components of an AR SDK that you need to acknowledge before picking one.
- 3D object recognition
- unity support + native engine
- wearables support
- slam support
- the operating platform it’s targeting
- native support for AR
- the programming language in which it’s written
- official SDK support
- license and monetization
Having a piece of in-depth information about the aforementioned will save you the trouble of selecting the wrong one and regretting it. Now, let have a brief overview of some top SDKs for AR in the market.
Top 5 SDKs AR App Development
What I like about ARCore is that, unlike ARkit, it supports AR development for iOS devices as well. Using different APIs, ARCore enables your phone to sense its environment, understand the world and interact with information. Some of the APIs are available across Android and iOS to enable shared AR experiences.
Google’s approach to AR development has always been different from Apple; it strives to innovate within the boundaries of less expensive hardware options. For instance, ARCore is compatible with phones running Android 7.0 (Nougat).
ARCore uses three key capabilities to integrate virtual content with the real world as seen through your phone’s camera:
- motion tracking allows the device to understand and track its position in line with the physical world
- environmental understanding allows the device to track the size as well as surfaces like horizontal, vertical, and angled surfaces like the ground, a coffee table, or walls
- light estimation allows the mobile device to evaluate the environment’s lighting conditions
With Google’s latest update, depth-sensing tools are no longer dependent on specific hardware. T his latest depth API update generates 3D meshes of environments and uses them to position AR objects more realistically and accurately. Using ‘occlusion,’ AR objects can now be placed behind real-world objects.
If you’re making an AR app for the iPhone or iPad, you’ll presumably want to use ARKit. Since its launch at WWDC 2017, ARKit has gone through many improvements, updating many of its features. From Six Degrees-of-Freedom (6DoF) Device Tracking and Plane Tracking, after five iterations (1.0, 1.5, 2.0, 3.0, 3.5), ARKit now offers many new features including Body Tracking, Accurate Face tracking, and Scene Reconstruction with new LiDAR technology (via the newest iPad Pro).
With the release of ARKit 4 and iOS 14, Apple has secured its place as the world’s largest AR platform, and it has provided developers worldwide with new tools to design riveting new AR experiences.
The Updated ARKit provides the following functionalities:
- SLAM tracking (simultaneous localization and mapping), and sensor fusion
- ambient lighting estimation
- scale estimations
- vertical and horizontal plane estimation with basic boundaries
- stable and fast motion tracking
- face Tracking (with accuracy)
- location anchors for accurate tracking of geographic location
- scene geometry, depth, and object placement
When it comes to AR development, the Vuforia toolkit is classed as one of the best platforms. It has a vast array of handy features that make it a popular option among developers, and it supports both Android and iOS. It offers both a free version and a paid one. The free one offers plugins and functionalities but you will see the Vuforia watermark when you do so. This SDK recognizes a wide range of visual objects, including boxes and planes. What’s more, It provides an excellent environment and text recognition functionality. You can set up the recognition process using either local or cloud storage, but it will take longer than other SDKs.
- 2D, 3D objects and text recognition
- video playback when target environments are detected
- creation of customized VuMarks
- turn static images into full-motion videos
- cloud and local storage
- unity plugin
Launched in 2008, Wikitude is the first SDK to focus exclusively on a location-based approach to developing augmented reality apps for cross-platform mobile AR creation and smart glasses devices, according to the company.
Offers a robust set of functionalities like:
- 3D model rendering
- location-based AR
- and video overlay
- cloud recognition
- SLAM technology (simultaneous localization and mapping), which facilitates seamless object tracking and recognition alongside markerless instantaneous tracking.
- Works across multiple platforms (supports Windows OS, iOS, Android, and a number of HUD’s (heads up displays))
5. Amazon Sumerian
Debuted in 2017, Amazon Sumerian allows developers to develop and run VR, AR, and 3D applications without requiring any programming or 3D graphics. The SDK is a part of Amazon Web Services (AWS) and is compatible with Android and iOS mobile devices. It also supports Oculus Go, Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, HTC Vive Pro, Google Daydream, and Lenovo Mirage.
Sumerian offers a free version as well as a paid one.
Features it offers:
- is platform-agnostic (compatible with the most popular mobile devices and hardware)
- provides a template and sample application for creating ARKit applications for iOS and ARCore for Android devices
- provides a library of optimized 3D objects and scene templates that you can use to construct scenes without any existing assets
- supports ARKit and ARCore
- supports open standards and frameworks like WebGL, WebAR, WebVR, WebXR, and Azure
- has lifelike character designs that can be integrated with Alexa Voice Services (AVS)
- easy integration with AWS Services
Let’s Build Your AR App Together
This was a brief overview of some of the top Augmented reality SDKs in the market (in no particular order). The SDK you eventually select will depend on your AR app’s requirements as mentioned above.
And if you are a business looking to create an immersive product experience to wow your customers, we suggest you team up with a top AR app development company like CitrusBits. You can request a demo as well as ping us for a free consultation.
As one of the few and top augmented reality app development companies, CitrusBits has designed and developed critical augmented reality mobile app solutions for both startups and enterprises including Dupont and Zoetis. Our 5-star clutch rating is pretty self-evident. Take a look at our complete portfolio here.