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Augmented Reality 101: all about the technology behind ARCore and ARKit

Google-ARCore

Once again all lights are on AR. Earlier this year Apple brought attention to this technology by launching an augmented reality software development kit for iOS – the ARKit. Following in their footsteps, Google has now traced a similar path by releasing, two days ago, an augmented reality software development kit for Android – the ARCore.

Ok, so one thing is clear, the tech giants are heavily betting on augmented reality. But what does that mean? What is AR? How does it work? Which technologies are involved? What are the use cases? If you are not sure what augmented reality is and/or how it is being used today, this series of posts is for you. Welcome to Wikitude’s Augmented Reality 101.

BACK TO THE BASICS

Simply put, augmented reality is when computer-generated elements (graphics, 3D animations, videos, etc.) are digitally layered on top of a user’s view of the real world. Currently, AR can be experienced through smartglasses, tablets, and smartphones.

Theoretical definitions aside, to get a grasp of what the concept means, think Arnold Schwarzenegger in the Terminator movie or Robert Downey Jr. in Iron Man. Both characters had their visions of the physical world enhanced with resourceful superimposed instant digital data, also known as AR. But, enough with the Hollywood examples. Let us talk about which types of augmented reality technologies are actually available TODAY.

AUGMENTED REALITY FEATURES

Be not mistaken, not all AR experiences are alike. Some are triggered by 2D images, while others require Geo-location based data to prompt the AR content. It all depends on what the developer wants to achieve. Let’s take a quick look at some of the most common types of AR technologies in use today:

GEO-LOCATION AR

The AR experience is triggered by the user’s position. Users can visualize and interact with AR content that has been placed in specific locations worldwide. The usage varies from restaurant reviews left by other customers, all the way to Pokémon hunting journeys. Speaking of this AR craze, check this awesome tutorial to learn how to create your own Pokémon GO like app.

Fun fact: the roots of AR started with location-based experiences and, almost a decade ago, Wikitude was the company which launched the very first location-based AR app.

MARKER BASED AR (IMAGE RECOGNITION)

The AR experience is triggered by a targeted image (or multiple targeted images). Users scan predetermined recognizable images to view and interact with AR content. It works with a single image as well as with multiple images. Once the target image is recognized, users can move their device around the subject and continue viewing the AR content. Multiple targets can also interact with one another (and it’s frankly so cool!).

This technology is widely used in marketing and e-commerce and its usage varies from AR enriched catalogs, board game, museum guides and more. Don’t miss our step-by-step tutorial for image recognition and tracking in our documentation section.

MARKERLESS SLAM BASED AR (INSTANT TRACKING)

The AR experience is triggered by arbitrary environments. SLAM technology (Simultaneous Localization and Mapping) allows users to scan previously mapped environments to view and interact with AR content.

Most commonly used in client engagement campaigns to promote products as well as in home decor apps, in which users can see how a furniture piece will look like in their environment before the actual purchase. You can learn all about building apps with SLAM here.

OBJECT RECOGNITION

The AR experience is triggered by arbitrary objects. SLAM technology (Simultaneous Localization and Mapping) allows users to scan previously mapped real-world objects, such as toys, sculptures, architectural models, product packaging, industrial machines and more to view and interact with AR content in a 360 degree manner.

A relatively new technology that has been positioning its usefulness in product modeling, design, assembly and other areas.

Despite the variety of features in use today, Google ARCore and Apple ARKit, thus far, only offer MARKERLESS AR technology. Any apps created through their SDK can also only be deployed on their respective platforms (either Android or iOS).

Wikitude, as an augmented reality technology provider that has been in the game for almost 10 years, is excited to see the big names finally recognizing the potential of AR. We are also proud to offer an award-winning cross-platform software development kit that does not only allow apps to be deployed on smartglasses and both iOS and Android simultaneously, but also allows developers to choose from any of the above mentioned technologies to include in their AR projects.

Now for the question that is on everyone’s mind. How is augmented reality being used in our world TODAY? Stay tuned for part 2 of our series “Augmented reality 101” on Twitter, Facebook and on the Wikitude blog.

Questions, comments? Let us know!

If you have questions, suggestions or feedback on this, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us via Facebook, Twitter or send us an email at hello@wikitude.com!