10 Best Augmented Reality SDKs
If you are the Chief Technology Officer or maybe a Product Development expert, now is the time to look into how your software can be extended with augmented reality. Before starting, there’s a lot to think about regarding getting the technical approach right. Here we’re going to be exploring some of the best AR SDKs on the market which should help you begin any AR app development. The perfect SDK is the one that fits your project requirements. There’s certainly a high demand for AR apps and this is projected to continue in the oncoming years. So let’s start with some augmented reality SDKs.
What Is an SDK?
SDK stands for ‘software development kit’ and it is the core tech software engine that is the powerhouse for the creation and development of AR apps. An SDK performs non-trivial tasks like fusing digital content and data with what is real. An SDK’s capabilities ultimately underpin all the functions and features of the app. It’s key to pick the right platform for your project.
An augmented reality SDK will be responsible for a lot of components within the app. This covers the rendering of content, scene recognition and AR tracking. The former means 3D objects and other digital information can be layed ontop of the real world stuff. Scene recognition is essentially the same as your own central nervous system. The tracking element is the eyes of the app. Every augmented reality SDK has individual properties that let AR developers know, track and render the app in an optimal way.
Let’s discuss the 10 best augmented reality SDKs
Apple released iOS11 three years ago and ARKit followed shortly after and made a huge entry onto the scene. ARKit is an individual framework that lets developers and brands to design and produce unique experiences that are compatible with Apple devices that have a minimum of an A9 processor. The SDK for ARKit functions similarly to most others. It enables 3D objects and digital data to be mixed with real-world elements. The number of devices it supports is astounding, too, which is awesome for accessibility.
ARKit needs A minimum of Apple A9 and relies on Visual Inertial Odometry (VIO) to track its surroundings with a high level of precision. VIO facilitates the ARKit in combining core motion information with the camera’s sensor and therefore will detect things within the environment like floors and walls, both horizontal and vertical planes.
This means the ARKit can easily understand what constitutes a given scene and can place 3D objects in it by overlaying digital data in a way that is contextually consistent. Think of it this way; we know the ARKit knows what a wall and a table is, so it knows it should put a plate on the table.
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Wikitude was developed specifically for mobile AR prototypes and apps. Initially it was launched with one mission: to facilitate AR developers to build a location-based AR experience through their Wikitude World Browser application. This was in 2008 and come 2012 they had incorporated geolocation functionality, image recognition and tracking right there in the core.
Wikitude has all the promise of being able to build a fully-immersive AR experience on mobile (try some mobile slots!) and has features like rendering of 3D models, video overlay and location-based displays of data.
Wikitude works well across platforms, including Windows OS. They say Wikitude is the first of the SDKs to focus on this location-based concept which is now being used in the development of smart glasses.
Kudan has offices worldwide: the UK, Japan and Tokyo. It’s an all-encompassing platform aimed at offering either markerless or marker-based location and tracking.
The Kudan core is nothing but C++. It has a specific architecture which is optimised for peak performance that is both fast and robust. If that isn’t enough, it makes a very small impact on memory, too. So, what this means is that the Kudan SDK can be utilised across multiple development environments like supporting HUDs to chipsets. Data speed, size and sensitivity and be tailored to the needs of any given AR project on a case-by-case basis.
There’s a native platform API which offers relentless support for both Android, iOS and the Unity game engine. Markerless and marker-based tracking are both options, which is a joy for developers trying to achieve functionality that doesn’t initially rely on markers.
Kudan’s aim is to enhance all work currently being done on virtuality. That being VR, AR, MR and robotics. They create meaningful algorithms known as AP – artificial perception. They do this to literally try and create something that looks at the world through human eyes. This is done by combining an impressive number of elements from all these areas and coming up with something that can not only interact with its environment like a human can, but actually sense it using it’s ‘eyes’ and even ‘brain’. Pretty cool, isn’t it?
Google is responsible for ARCore. It enables developers and brands to make AR apps compatible with Google products. It also supports iOS, which is nice for developers and users alike. ARCore has three outstanding features that allow a developer to blend virtual reality with the real world:
Light estimation allows us to roughly know the real lighting condition.
Understanding the environment allows it to detect the location and size of angles surfaces, either horizontally or vertically.
Motion tracking enables the understanding of the position of the phone in relation to its environment.
The whole offering is largely focused on real-time tracking plus a calculation of the location of the device. This is results in an integration of digital objects with the real world. A brand will take this and create an immersive and rich mobile or smartwatch experience with things like 3D objects or text and information about that real-world surrounding.
ARCore is open source, meaning it’s free for developers. It supports pretty much all popular Android and iOS devices.
Vuforia is another SDK that allows developers to create high-fidelity, immersive AR experiences on mobile. Vuforia utilises computer vision tech to recognise and track targeted images and 3D objects, all in real-time. This again lets brands put digital objects like 3D things, text or information into the real-life environment. Like the others, it does this using an overlaying technique.
Vuforia can support a range of 2D and 3D targets. Additionally, it can incorporate localised occlusion detection, meaning it can offer working digital buttons.
EasyAR is an SDK accessible to brands and developers in two different price packages. There’s Basic and Pro. Basic has user-friendly API’s and workflow and better than average compatibility to boot. The Pro model offers something new. It has features that are not offered with the basic package. The basic version of EasyAR is free to download and is aimed at developers looking to build something within either Android or iOS. It does support some additional features like transparent video playback, scanning of QR codes and comprehensive integration with Unity.
The Pro package comes with all the basic features plus additional support for things like 3D object tracking, SLAM, screen recording and detection and tracking for multiple targets.
To expand on the core offering within EasyAR Pro:
- It focusses on SLAM (including comprehensive mobile compatibility and a real-time 6DOF camera pose tracker).
- It has 3D object tracking (which includes the capability to identify and track a 3D object and whatever texture it has in real-time).
- Screen recording for a streamlined recording of AR-based content).
- The ability to identify and track, in real-time, plantar images.
- An efficient API that works well with most mobile platforms and their content.
- The ability to produce a compelling AR experience with exceptional functionality
If you head to the EasyAR website you’ll find they’re happy to dish out a tonne of very handy information to help you get your app into development in a short time. It offers support, FAQs and an interactive and helpful community.
This SKD has the purpose of giving developers something that is intuitive and fast to use. Onirix lets brands and developers publish and host the visual parts of their AR project. It offers a variety of features for AR projects, like adding location-based points of interest, way-finding and routes, 3D modelling and a host of other information. It uses a cloud-based system that lets developers access exactly the amount of performance and resource they need for their project. It, therefore, offers the mobile user an optimised experience. Both Android and iOS developers can get their hands on Onirix.
The SDK was made specifically for use with AR-enables tablets and smartphones. Inside the library, you’ll find some simple app development elements for Android, iOS and Unity. The free REST API lets you blend existing data with newer AR apps seamlessly.
They consistently update their documents for the components and devices that they support. This includes other SDK libraries like ARCore and ARKit. You will also see documentation for HoloLens and Magic Leap very soon.
MaxST AR SDK offers an excellent cross-platform engine which has all the features and functionality needed by both developers and brands to build a decent AR app or experience. MaxST has the ability to recognise horizontal and vertical planes and then overlay them with a relevant piece of content (known as instant tracking), visual SLAM, superimposed 3D objects and content like videos and images (known as object tracking), QR code scanning and marker tracking (laying content on markers with just over 8,000 to chose from).
This SKD has a range of other useful features that can be used cross-plaform. It also runs on pretty much every major platform going from Mac OS and iOs to Windows, Android and Unity. It can also be used on various HUDs and, although there aren’t many yet, some smart glasses from the likes of Epson.
Pikkart lets a developer create an AR app with all the promise of being lightweight, user-friendly, inexpensive in terms of the necessary equipment needed to run it and robust. That’s a big promise!
Pikkart AR SDK comes in four price packages. The basic, as with others, is free. It comes with unlimited local markers, a demo app for either Android or iOS and 20 cloud markers.
€299 buys you all those basic features with the addition of email support and handy instructions on how to optimally use everything.
The other two are both premium offerings. They both cost €99 a month and for that you get a spectrum of functionality including unlimited data, nearly 2,000 markers, cloud recognition and email support.
Pikkard promises developers the chance to build a truly engaging and hyper-immersive AR experience that they can complete and have running on a device in under an hour. Native plugins for Android are part of this, and you can get integration with Xamarin or Unity projects. Finally, developers can work with geo-located AR markers to develop sophisticated navigation functionality.
The DeepAR AR SDK was first made for those needing to create a high-quality app that worked seamlessly with the likes of Snapchat and Facebook. Apps that offer things like filters and various special effects if using an Android, iOS, HTML5 or Unity platform. DeepAR is another lightweight option so it can be applied to most projects quickly. It supports an extensive range of filters and effects for those building a consumer-facing AR app or prototype. Want to learn the future of virtual reality – read the future predictions here.
The platform offers, unsurprisingly, face detection including characteristics. They do this by blending number data models with an advanced 3D machine learning element. Deepar is able to detect nearly 70 kinds of facial features at a speed of 60 frames a second. Impressive! The platform is optimised for detecting multiple faces in real-time through a smartphone or tablet camera.
It also has emotion detection in real time and can pick up on a range of feelings like happiness, fear, sadness, anger, surprise, disgust and neutral. It uses deep learning to achieve this.
Best Augmented Reality SDKs: Final word
If you’re a brand or gaming software developer looking to start work on an AR app or prototype, there is so much software at your disposal, whatever your project requirements are. Technology is advancing at a rapid pace and SKDs are becoming more and more comprehensive all the time.
If you’re part of a project, it’s advisable to remember the business element as a driver for development. Remember that you have an ROI target over your head so it’s worth checking in with the business sponsor before you decide which SDK is for you.
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