Have you ever dreamed of making your own Augmented Reality app? But you don’t know how to start? So, let’s see our massive investigation of Augmented reality SDK. This article will help you increase your knowledge on Unity 3D and augmented reality development. This guide could be equally useful for beginners or skilled software developers. Using the following augmented reality frameworks and source codes let’s start your AR app right now!
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Supported platforms: Android, iOS, UWP and Unity Editor.
Vuforia is one of the most popular platforms to help you work with augmented reality development. It implements the following functionalities: recognition of the different types of visual objects (a box, cylinder, plane), text and environments recognition, VuMark (a combination of picture and QR-code). Also, using Vuforia Object Scanner, you can scan and create object targets. The recognition process can be implemented using the database (local or cloud storage). Unity plugin is simple to integrate and very powerful.
All plugins and functionalities of the platform are free to use but include the Vuforia watermarks. The limitations just relate to the number of VuMark and the number of Cloud recognition. Paid plan without watermarks and with a certain number of recos costs 99$ per month.
Since this article has been initially written, Vuforia has released new advanced editions – Vuforia 7 (December 2017) and 7.1 (March 2018). Rolling out the biggest release, Vuforia presented new capabilities for AR content:
- Vuforia Model Targets – introducing object recognition by shape, contrary to visual print media designs. This will help track images, scanned objects, special marks (encoded), text and surfaces.
- Vuforia Ground Plane – a feature for Unity engine that allows to place the augmented content on ground or surfaces. It helps to create high-quality visual apps and designs.
- Vuforia Fusion – a feature aimed at solving the fragmentation and enabling cameras, sensors, as well as external frameworks, e.g. ARKit.
- Vuforia 7.1 Update – a whole bunch of improvements on v.7 release, including automatic initialization on scenes with Vuforia components, removal of Google Tango support, option to clone objects, and more. In Vuforia 7.2 it is expected to expand to supporting ARCore, HoloLens and Universal Windows Platform devices.
|1,000 Targets||–||100,000 Targets||>100,000 Targets|
|Free||$499 / one-time per app||$99 / mo.||Call|
EasyAR is a free and easy to use alternative to Vuforia.
Supported platforms: Android, iOS, UWP, Windows, Mac and Unity Editor.
The latest version of EasyAR (1.3.1) supports the image recognition only. Version 2.0 will include the following features:
- 3D Object Recognition
- Environment perception
- Cloud Recognition
- Smart Glass Solution
- App Cloud Packaging
The library is completely free. To start your work with EasyAR, you only need to register the account and to generate the plugin’s key of your Bundle ID. EasyAR is quite easy to integrate. Documentation and examples are intuitively understandable.
Supported platforms: Android, iOS, tablets, smart glasses (Epson Moverio, Vuzix M100, ODG R-7).
Supported development frameworks: Unity3D, Xamarin, Titanium, Cordova.
Recently Wikitude released the latest version of powerful SLAM solution for augmented reality apps: Wikitude SDK 7. While the previous version SDK 6 implemented image recognition/tracking/geo-data/cloud recognition, a new improved SDK comes with:
- 3D markerless tracking,
- Object recognition (and tracking),
- Image recognition (and tracking),
- Support for ARKit, ARCore, Geo-location AR for apps.
Wikitude offers the opportunity to try the free trial version with watermark and the full power of the platform. The cost of the Wikitude SDK 7 starts from 2490 Euros.
|2D Image Recognition||2D Image Recognition||2D Image Recognition||2D Image Recognition|
|–||3D Image Recognition||3D Image Recognition||3D Image Recognition|
|–||–||Cloud Recognition||Cloud Recognition|
|€2490 / yr. per app||€2990 / yr. per app||€4490 / yr. per app||Call|
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ARtoolKIt is an open source tracking library for augmented reality.
Supported platforms: Android, iOS, Linux, Windows, Mac OS and Smart Glasses.
ARtoolKit implements the following functionalities:
- Single-camera or stereo-camera camera position/orientation tracking.
- Tracking of simple black squares
- Tracking of planar images
- Camera calibration and optical stereo calibration
- Plugins for Unity and OpenSceneGraph
- Optical head-mounted display support
- Free and open source software
- Fast enough for real time AR applications
Variety of functions makes it difficult to integrate the library and takes more time to explore all options and settings.
Pricing: Free, open source.
According to reviews and comparisons of efficiency, Kudan is the main rival of Vuforia and make augmented reality development very easy.
Supported platforms: Android, iOS.
Using the SLAM technology Kudan allows to recognize the simple images and 3D objects and provides easy generation of the database in the Unity Editor. Kudan also has some disadvantages: Crash Editor (sometimes it is the main reason of apps crashing on devices). There are also the difficulties with the test license key installation (not always picks up the key).
The free version is only for application testing. The cost of a license is 1230 $. The Kudan is simple to integrate, but on the other side, the problems with Unity Editor complicate the development process.
|Development||Production License||Volume License|
|2D / 3D Recognition||2D / 3D Recognition||2D / 3D Recognition|
|Free||£1,000 yr. per app||Call|
Supported platforms: Android, iOS, Windows, Mac OS.
Maxst offers two different tools for image and environments recognition. The generation of a database is online via Tracking Manager. To scan 3D objects are used applications for Android and IOS. In Unity Editor Maxst only works with the 32-bit version.
The free version differs from paid only by a watermark. PRO version cost 999$. The library is very easy to use and in integration. The official website has full and easy to understand documentation.
Pricing tiers for Maxst 2D:
|200 Target Image||200 Target Image|
|Image Recognition||Image Recognition|
|Augmenting Video||Augmenting Video|
|Free||$999 single-user license|
Pricing tiers for Maxst 3D:
|10 Targets||500 Targets||2000 Targets||Unlimited||Unlimited|
|1 Application license||Unlimited Application licenses||Unlimited Application licenses||Unlimited Application licenses||Unlimited Application licenses|
|Watermark||No Watermark||No Watermark||No Watermark||No Watermark|
|Free||$50 / mo.||$150 / mo.||$400 / mo.||$6500 single-user license|
Xzimg provides three products to work with AR based applications:
- Augmented Face recognizes and tracks faces with Unity
- Augmented Vision recognizes and tracks planar images with Unity
- Magic Face is for face replacement and make-up applications
Supported platforms: PC, Android, iOS, Windows, WebGL.
Xzimg allows the recognizion of simple images and black&white markers. Generation of the database is local in the Unity Editor. Free trial version is only available for demonstration (inverts the color and reverses the image). Paid version includes all possibilities of the platform and costs 1600€.
|No Application licenses||Unlimited Application licenses|
|Free||€1600 single-user license|
NyARToolkit Augmented reality library that based on ARToolKit.
Supported platforms: Android, iOS.
Currently used only for identification and tracking images. It is a simplified version of ARToolKit and uses the same web tool for generating the database as ARToolKit. The library is simple to integrate, but the English version is not available.
SDK Feature Comparison
|Maximum distance capturing / holding marker (m)||1.2 / 3.7||0.9 / 2.7||0.8 / 3||3 / 3||0.8 / 3||0.5 / 0.9||0.7 / 5||0.7 / 1|
|Recognition stability of immovable marker||10||7||6||8||10||7||8||5|
|Recognition stability of movable marker||6||3||4||6||6||2||7||3|
|Minimum angle recognition||30||35||40||10||30||50||35||45|
|Minimum visibility for recognition overlapped marker||20%||10%||30%||100%||25%||50%||10%||75%|
|2D Recognition||✓||✓||✓||✓ (bordered)||✓||✓||✓||✓|
|3D Recognition||✓||–||✓ (beta)||–||✓||✓||–||–|
| Total (rating)
We have mentioned best tools for augmented reality development. Enjoy!
While you’re here, let’s check your interest in AR. Augmented reality is slowly taking over the world. Internet did, smartphones did, and sooner or later AR apps will enter our everyday lives. Should we resist or embrace it? Is it a mark of progress for medicine, science and advertising? Or is it yet another futuristic fantasy? Let’s find out.
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