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How to Build Cross-Platform Augmented Reality Apps with ARKit and ARCore

Rakia Binte Khalid May 25, 2019
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Cross-platform mobile application development is developing software applications that are compliant with various mobile operating systems. As iOS and Android became the most widely used mobile platforms (with sorts of beating retreat from Windows and Blackberry), cross-platform app development frameworks have surely gained popularity. These frameworks have now become both developers and businesses’ new favorites.

As according to Statista,

“The number of available apps in the Google Play Store was most recently placed at 2.6 million apps in December 2018…”

In this kind of situation, businesses should not risk missing their presence on both platforms. However, budgeting is usually a problem when businesses go for native apps. That’s why the development of cross-platform apps has appeared as the unrivaled choice of companies that strive to be present on both Android and iOS. Therefore, in such a case, it is the cross-platform frameworks that take center stage.

Let us further elaborate you in detail what cross platforms are:

As I explained earlier, cross-platform application development frameworks enable developers to make mobile applications that are compatible with more than one operating system, iOS and Android in this scenario. It gives them the power to write the code once and run it anywhere for other platforms as well.

Benefits of Cross-Platform

Here is a list of benefits that you get with Cross-Platforms:

Price-effective: Because the code is written once and uses both (or more) platforms, it offers a comparatively low development cost compared to native app development.

Uniformity in UI Modules: Cross-platform apps provide a decent degree of consistency in the device’s native UI components. The look and feel are uniform.

Cloud integration: It is easy to integrate with the cloud environment. You can even easily integrate them with enterprise-grade plugins, therefore offering universal compatibility.

Less Time to Market: These apps offer smaller marketing time and vast market reach. The time to market is short because the turnaround is fast. And since the app is available as one and the same time on multiple platforms, it spares marketing effort.

Easy hosting: Once all the requirements have been met, it is easy to host on the respective app stores.

Differences between VR and AR

Augmented reality and virtual reality are two ways where tech can change the way you perceive the world. The terms can be quite confusing. Often people assume that AR and VR are the same. So, let me first explain what is the difference between augmented reality and virtual reality?

Both technologies can change the way you look at the world. Nevertheless, they are aiming for a different goal. Virtual reality attempts to create a simulated environment around the user. It can take you to places that you have never seen and enables you to enter a new world. It implies a full experience of immersion that shuts out the physical world. Using VR devices like HTC Vive, Oculus Rift or Google Cardboard, users can be transported to a number of real-world and envisioned environments such as the middle of a squawking penguin colony or the back of a dragon. If VR is doing the right job, you’ll believe you’re actually there.

Augmented reality, unlike VR, doesn’t really take you to a different place. With digital information, it improves the world around you. For example, seeing your navigation system’s route mingled into the real street image while driving in your car. Using the camera on a smartphone, it adds digital elements to a live view. Examples of augmented reality experiences include Snapchat lenses and Pokemon Go game.

How to build cross-platform AR apps?

How to build cross-platform AR apps

It all started with the announcements by Google Glass and Oculus Rift in 2012. Microsoft’s HoloLens in 2016, Apple’s ARKit in 2017 and Google’s ARCore in 2018. The emergence of virtual, mixed, and augmented reality.

Improved AR capabilities for mobile platforms are among the greatest trends. Apps with AR functionalities like Yelp, Google Translate, or Pokémon GO are just the start. Augmented reality encourages the creation of innovative user experiences that support your brand.

Build the App in a System-Agnostic Manner

Thankfully, ARKit and ARCore each offer a good user-friendly interface for Unity, the engine we use to build apps. Less luckily, each API does not have a unified entry point. Last but not least, the two APIs are quite different in their design: a function call to perform a particular task in ARKit does not simply have an equivalent in ARCore, so porting code across the two platforms isn’t just about replacing function names.

Of course, maintaining parallel iOS and Android versions of the projects would not be feasible. App is regularly updated and introducing new features to two entirely separate apps at the same time would be logistically unmanageable. Instead, develop a wrapper library that’d enable us all to develop the app in a platform-agnostic manner. Rather than invoking AR functionality directly into the code, route all AR-related activities via a new, generic interface that transmits instructions to ARKit or ARCore based on the operating system.

Augmented reality applications come in two distinguishable types

  1. Location-based
  2. Marker-based

1. Building a Location-based augmented reality app

Augmented reality apps based on location use the unique capabilities of mobile devices to supervise the position of each device. This allows augmented reality apps to offer contextual data depending on the particular location of an individual device. With respect to real-world applications, this technology allows marketers to provide location-sensitive functionality such as assisting with directions in a specific city, locating a vehicle in a busy car park, or recognizing constellation patterns in the night sky.

2. Building a Marker-based augmented reality app

In a number of ways, marker-based augmented reality apps differ from location-based apps. First, marker-based AR apps function by allowing the software to identify specific patterns (this could be a QR code or brand symbol) when used in conjunction with a device camera to overlay digital information on the real-world environment. This means they can see a virtual UI on top of the object when the device user points their smartphone to a particular object or setting. Secondly, if the image in question is either animated or 3D, the digital widget sits on top of the identified pattern.

How to develop Augmented Reality (AR) Apps

While developing augmented reality apps on iOS and Android, there are a number of things you need to consider.

Many of these augmented reality apps will superimpose 3D imagery or text over actual images processed by the device of the user. But, to think about creating an augmented reality app, you should have expertise in image processing. Attempting to access some form of image processing ability will allow you to develop an application designed to track markers or natural features in the real-world environment. The development of augmented reality apps requires far more than image analysis and processing techniques. You will need to have access to more conventional mobile app development capability and use developers with a thorough understanding of the mobile app development method. It is one way to avoid and manage the commercial and technical risk factors associated with your augmented reality projects. Also, this will expand your mobile app development capability.

Due to the significant growth of AR / VR adoption, it is vital to consider that many consumers of augmented reality will be mass-market in the future and expect a fast and efficient UI / UX. Making your Augmented Reality App simple and immersive will greatly improve your chances of success in a rapidly growing market.

Cross-platform augmented reality app developers will usually have a mix of skills including 3D modeling, computer vision and imaging expertise, and a deep knowledge of existing mobile technologies. From an imagery point of view, you will need an experienced development team that understands 3D modeling in significant depth, with previous experience in the process of rendering, shading, and texture. The preferred programming languages for the development of Augmented Reality Apps are C # and C++, providing an easy Augmented Reality entry point for developers who already embody these skills. Moreover, these developers can make use of the best cross-platform mobile frameworks for 2019.

ARKit Vs. ARCore – How do they compare one another

ARKit Vs. ARCore – How do they compare one another

It’s only been a few months since we have Apple’s ARKit between us and it’s already making a stir on the market. The tech-whopper’s inventive attempt brings with it a lot of new opportunities to allow innovative ways to accommodate Augmented Reality, as this AR platform is all configured with the latest feature resources and robust properties to integrate and serve your iOS AR project. And with this, developers of the iOS app have already began building advanced Augmented Reality solutions.

On the other side, in the form of ARCore, we get a parallel power evolving in AR space. It’s again a striving attempt by the tech-giant Google, which implies to be an ARKit’s close competitor. With its efforts to iterate the professional skills into new application concepts and build effective AR solutions, it’s all set to serve present and future Android phones with the modern technology in the forthcoming tech spells.

But which AR platform is better? Let’s have a look at the features of both Apple’s ARKit and Google’s ARCore and make a quick comparison between both:

  • Similarities between ARCore and ARKit Features

ARKit came with three unique feature offerings and also includes various sub-features and resources. Those are motion tracking, light emission, and understanding of the environment. All these together offer a comprehensive AR potential that can be sought and employed by Augmented Reality developers to build significantly augmented reality apps with ARKit. These features combined help developers of the iOS app to enable users to perceive and relate with enhanced visual objects with perfect clarity.

Environmental Understanding: Using ARKit, Apple devices can monitor and analyze the scenes they see through the camera and determine distinct shapes (such as horizontal distances) to produce useful results.

Motion Tracking: ARKit can unvaryingly and accurately track the placement of the device in reference to the real objects in the live frame captured by the camera using Visual Inertial Odometer (VIO). It allows devices to capture data from the motion sensor, recording the device’s real-time position.

Light Estimation: It makes iPhone and iPad cameras to sense and measure the amount of light present in an area. It really helps iOS app developers to allow AR apps to consistently detect and control a certain amount of light to flash and maintain continuity.

Although ARCore isn’t really Google’s first attempt at AR solutions since it had launched Tango earlier. But, ARCore emerges as a baked-in platform for Android mobile devices and is all configured with the latest capabilities in terms of sensory perception, measurement values and command interpretation. Which makes ARCore a wiser and more proficient platform to meet the needs of modern Augmented Reality development as per Android app developers. Let’s see how this operates with a different functional component of an AR framework.

Environmental Understanding: ARCore reads and detects it horizontally just like ARKit. Everything that includes settings and the functional process works, in the same way, to help devices understand the environment.

Motion Tracking: Unlike ARKit that goes with VIO, ARCore tracks and interprets IMU (Inertial Measurement Unit) data. It also analyses the shape, builds and features of the surrounding objects very differently to detect and identify the correct position and orientation of the Android device in use.

Light estimation: ARCore is again very close in terms of taking light estimations. Similarly, it identifies the light in the surrounding atmosphere and changes the effect of focal positioning and illumination, disseminating the light balance in the most organized and effective way to derive the best possible results from it.

  • Differences between ARkit and ARCore

One of the significant differences between ARCore and ARKit is their objective. ARKit aims to create an AR ecosystem that is prevalent throughout industries to provide companies with technological tools to strengthen their bottom lines. Fundamentally, Apple tries to create a series of interlinked devices that function for consumer and professional purposes on AR. By contrast, ARCore strives to generalize AR among all platforms, rendering the technology available across as many people as possible. Google is attempting to add AR solutions to even more businesses with the hopes of broadening their brands with wider accessibility.

Also, there are a few other major differences to consider. For instance, when it comes to its mapping capabilities, ARCore is tougher because it utilizes larger maps. On the other side, ARKit only stores the latest location data and removes old data. Because of this property, the ARKit cannot map as much of the world as the ARCore can, constraining image stability after the user has relocated the camera away from the scene.

Another difference is that the product of Google employs its tracking capabilities to analyze more tracking points than those of Apple. Ultimately, this implies that the mapped area in ARCore apps extends faster. However, ARKit is more reliable when distinguishing between horizontal and vertical surfaces.

Finally, the documentation supporting the Google product API is relatively limited. You get a pretty generic guide that disintegrates every class and method as well as a “quick start” manual to develop with ARCore. Apple has the edge here; the support files of the ARKit break down every segment that develops an AR application more convincingly.

Nevertheless, there are now only minor issues for the two SDKs because they both succeed in overlaying virtual objects onto the real world. ARCore has more reach, but with its dimensions and lighting, ARKit is a bit more accurate, so choosing one largely depends on what you’re trying to attain with your app.