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Best Augmented Reality Tools in 2018: Which Is The Right One for Your AR App?

Best Augmented Reality Tools in 2018: Which Is The Right One for Your AR App?

by Adriana Cacoveanu on Jan 03 2018

“Build the next big thing in terms of AR apps!” Is this goal on top of your New Year's resolutions list? Well, then right now you must be wondering: “With so many tempting augmented reality tools out there to choose from, which one's best for my own AR solution?"

A frustratingly ambiguous answer could be:

"The one that best serves your AR app development needs."

Meaning that whatever AR platform you'll be choosing, it should:

  1. meet your project's requirements
  2. serve the goals that you will have set up for it

And yet, this “matching” of the AR libraries at your disposal with your project's specific development needs is your “mission” and yours only.

Nevertheless, we can still help you streamline your selection process.

How? By shortlisting 6 of the most popular augmented reality development tools in 2017 with a great potential to grow even more influential in 2018. 

Here they come:

1. Kudan AR

An augmented reality SDK that “pioneered” the network intelligent vision (bringing together AI and IoT).

And which sets itself apart from the other augmented reality tools in our shortlist here due to its robust single-camera SLAM.

In other words: Kudan AR supports mapping tracking and simultaneous localization.

Built for both iOS and Android-based apps, Kudan AR supports markerless tracking (meaning that it uses features such as edges, corners, and textures) and, moreover, it's designed to recognize an unlimited number of images.

Where do you add that it doesn't get “greedy” using too much of your app's memory to store its files and (big advantage!) it's significantly faster than other AR SDKs.

Summing up its key features and functionalities now:

  • 2D/3D Recognition in the same application
  • supports markerless tracking
  • supports Simultaneous localization and mapping (SLAM) tracking technology

2. Vuforia, By Far One of the Most Popular Augmented Reality Tools

Call it a "complete tool" for developing AR apps!

It practically “empowers” you to create any kind of AR solution for any type of device, any platform! A visually arresting augmented reality app or game “packed” with cutting-edge functionality. 

Yet, it does have its own shortcomings, too, the most “discouraging” one being that its free version comes with Vuforia watermarks and limited functionality. 

Even so, the balance between great features and innovative capabilities and shortcomings is titled so that it favours the first ones. Let us detail:

  • it's supercharged with smart terrain functionality for reconstructing a terrain and therefore a whole 3D map of the environment in real-time 

     
  • the same, above-mentioned functionality, will empower you (or your app development team) to create some fully interactive user experiences where the app's elements interact with the physical world

     
  • it's extended tracking feature enables your future AR app to deliver a 100% realistic visual experience even when the target elements are out of view (in other words users will be able to simultaneously engage themselves in the gameplay and still visualize the vehicles for instance)

     

And now summing up Vuforia's most notable features:

 

  • it comes with virtual buttons, which allow you to switch between various surfaces, which play the roles of your true-to-life, natural-looking touch screens

     
  • mixed reality and eyewear support (that's right, Microsoft HoloLens here included)

     
  • cloud recognition (and on-device, as well), meaning that it's capable to use either a local or a cloud database during the image recognition process 

     
  • Vuforia Object Scanner

     
  • it comes with Vumarks (Vuforia barcodes), which act both as data encoders and as markers

     
  • it's built to recognize both 2D and 3D objects

     
  • text recognition: Vuforia's designed to recognize over 100.000 words (and, moreover, you're enabled to use your own custom vocabulary, as well)

     

3. Wikitude

The third augmented reality development kit on our list is actually an “all-in-one” platform in fact. One which brings together:

Instant tracking + 3D markerless technology + Geo-location + Object/Image recognition and tracking

And all these top-notch AR features bundled up in one single AR app development kit can only mean 2 things:

 

  1. you get to build both marker AR mobile apps
  2. ... and location-based ones

     

Available for iOS, Android, and Glassware, Wikitude is one of those commercial augmented reality tools. It does come in a trial version, as well, but do expect it to “surprise” you with a series of limitations, such as its logo showing up in the cam view.

And now, let's go through its attention-worthy features and functionalities:

 

  • it provides you with Wikitude Studio, which makes AR app development a breeze, literally, since it requires no programming skills whatsoever: just drag the elements onto the studio screen and... put together your app 

     
  • Wikitude SDK is currently available for Android, iOS and the Glassware platform

     
  • on-device and cloud recognition 

     
  • instant (3D) tracking (it will display virtual objects and map out environments without using markers)

     
  • extended tracking 

     
  • geolocation support: your AR mobile app can get enhanced with location-based services, as well 

     

4. ARToolKit

ARToolKit is, in fact, a group of augmented reality tools that you can use for building your app.

And its heavy-weighing pro, that helped it make it to our list here, is that it's... an open-source code! That's right, you gain free access to its library, so you'll be able to tailor its source code to your AR app's specific development needs.

Nevertheless, this comes with a drawback: limited documentation! So, do keep this in mind when you're on a lookout for the most appropriate AR platform for your app project.

And now, let's list its other “seductive” features besides its open-source nature:

 

  • simultaneous tracking: basically you get to “empower” your AR apps to track multiple objects at the same time
  • both single and dual camera support 
  • integration with GPS (a vital feature if it's a location-based AR app that you're developing)
  • it supports various platforms, ranging from iOS and Android to Windows, macOS, Linux...

     

5. Apple ARkit, One of The Revolutionary AR Frameworks

And it was pretty much around the time when iOS 11 introduced ARKit in the digital arena that app developers' “mad race” to build their own next big thing started.

Did you start planning your own AR solution around the same time?

Running on Apple 9, Apple 10, and A11 processors, Apple ARkit empowers you to create and deliver augmented reality experiences to your users both on iPhone and iPad (obviously!).

Now let us highlight the top-notch functionalities that will empower your app development team to put together not “just” AR experiences, but some truly realistic, immersive ones:

 

  • VIO (Visual Inertial Odometry) combines core motion data with camera sensor data, enabling your future AR app to accurately track the environment 

     
  • it's capable to detect horizontal surfaces (e.g. floors and tables) and objects on smaller feature points 

     
  • it's equipped for plane, scale, and ambient lighting estimation

     
  • fast motion tracking

     
  • it can be used with third-party tools such as Unreal Engine and Unity, with SceneKit and Metal

     

6. EasyAR 

Here's another SDK “overloaded” with cutting-edge functionalities on our augmented reality tools list here!

And even if you go with the free version of the EasyAR kit (which won't provide you with certain of its functionalities, such as SLAM, 3D tracking, and screen recording), you still get an impressive load of features:

 

  • cloud recognition
  • 1000 on-device targets storage
  • unlimited recognition queries

     

And where do you add that getting it up and running is just a matter of registering your account and generating your Bundle ID's plugin key.

Its list of top features would have to include:

 

  • cloud recognition
  • app cloud packaging
  • 3D object recognition
  • environment tracking

     

The END! These are the 6 augmented reality tools that you should consider selecting from if you're decided to go ahead and build your first AR solution this year. Good luck checking them off your New Year's resolutions list!

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