How much does it cost to develop an augmented reality app?

Eva Triantafillopoulou

Learn how the Client, Specialist, Functionality, and Content tetrad can influence the cost of your AR project 

Augmented reality has been growing in popularity and commercial significance, and is now expected to top 2,500,000,000 installed base and $70 billion to $75 billion revenue by 2023 (mobile AR, smartglasses), according to Digi Capital. With these and many more positive AR predictions and statistics arising, it is not alarming to see that so many businesses and brands are looking to invest in an AR project of their own. And, naturally, one of the big questions that come up, rather sooner than later, revolves around AR development costs.

With that in mind and in order to provide a realistic cost estimation to our AR community and readers, we invited an AR, VR, and IoT development company, and Wikitude Premium Partner to share their experience on the AR cost development topic.

Guest post by Wikitude premium partner HQSoftware

Client Input

The project starts with the client. The client might have a couple of ideas for an app, or the whole specification ready. That will determine the size of the team, influencing the cost of the app.

We can divide clients into three different types:

  • The client who might only have a rough idea of the application and no technical information. In this case, he/she has to work with the whole team of Business Analyst, Project Manager, Designer, Software Developers, and QA Engineer to kick off the project.
  • The client who has some ideas in any form of specification, so a Business Analyst (BA) comes in to polish these specs and make sure that everything is in order. After that, they are good to go with the development process.
  • And finally, the client who has the full specification ready. In this case, no BA is involved in the project. After making sure that the specification is feasible, the Project Manager steps in to decompose the project into tasks. Then, the project starts.
augmented reality app cost is influenced by the initial client input

AR app development specialists

Now let’s take a closer look at the role of each specialist engaged in the AR app development, and how their role influences the cost of the project.

  • The first specialist the client interacts with is a Business Analyst. He starts guiding the client to work out the ideas and come up with a project specification. It describes the value and functionality of the app. At this stage, the BA also determines if the client’s idea is feasible from a technical standpoint. 
  • After the BA has enough information on the app design, the UI/UX designer starts working on it. They may be engaged in the development process later as well to tweak and polish the design.
  • Then the development phase starts. During the process, the client can keep in touch with the team through the Project Manager. He communicates with the client and makes sure that the project is completed in time, with no technical issues, and within the agreed budget.
  • Software developers are the ones doing most of the work. If we are talking about AR applications, the BA might offer two ways to go about the development. One way is having both iOS and Android developers in the team to build separate iOS and Android apps. The other way is to have one team of cross-platform developers — they will build one app for both platforms. Each of those approaches has it’s pros and cons, and they both influence the project cost differently.
  • To guarantee that the final product meets the technical requirements and works properly, a QA Engineer is engaged in the project.
augmented reality app cost influenced by the amount of specialists needed in the AR project

AR app functionality

Apart from the team composition, the functionality of the application also determines its cost.

  • A simple AR application takes a couple of days to build. Such an application is marker-based: the app scans a marker and displays 2D or 3D content. The content can be created from scratch or purchased.
  • A more complex application may have several markers and more complex features. Such features can include social media sharing, marker gallery, etc. It takes around one month to build a complex application — around 160 hours of development itself. Add roughly 90-140 hours of BA, PM, Design, and QA work and you’ll have 250-300 hours of development.
augmented reality app cost influenced by app complexity x hours of development time

3D AR content

Apart from the regular app development costs, AR software costs also include the appropriate content

The client might want to build the app which is marker-based, markerless, or with points of interest. Each type of app is associated with the particular problem it solves, determining the type of content it needs.

  • The maker-based application is the simplest one. It may include 2D markers and somewhat simple 2D, 3D, buttons, video, or audio content to display. Marker-based apps with simple content can often be used in marketing.
  • With markerless apps, the development may get more complicated and take more time. With no markers, the application needs more complex recognition technology, which it will use to identify surrounding objects. In simpler words, the app needs to understand which way to put an AR couch on a real floor. Usually, the content for those apps is 3D and interactive. It also includes video or audio. Such tech can be utilized in product or interior design.
  • Apps with points of interest will display the AR content only at a certain place, meaning that the developer must build a geo-positioning tech into it. POI AR is often used in navigation, meaning that apart from 3D content, the app pulls the data from map services.
  • For more complex AR software, the cost of making the content may be even higher than the cost of app development.

The average cost of a 3D AR content can vary from $500 to $2000, and it can take on average from 3 days up to 2 months. Different objects require a different amount of work depending on the number of details. For instance, building a 3D model of a ship or a human head with complex facial animation will cost more than a simple model of a couch.

Collaboration Methods

While choosing a technical partner, don’t forget to negotiate the way you will collaborate. There are three ways to go about it:

  • Time and material. That approach is the most straightforward: you pay for the time it takes the team to complete your project. You can move the deadlines as long as you have new ideas or want to further polish the app.
  • Fixed price. A fixed price does not offer much flexibility but you can determine the price of the project before you start. You can’t change anything during the project since the deadlines and scope are fixed. Such projects are completely managed by the outsourcer.
  • Dedicated team. It basically means having temporary employees. You can have them work on your terms remotely or on sight. You select the specialists you need, set your own deadlines and change them whenever you want. Unlike the other models, dedicated teams are paid an hourly salary.

We hope the insights and information above will help you better understand the dynamic behind augmented reality app costs. If you are still in the planning phase, access the first article of the Wikitude AR app development series to learn how to successfully start and strategically plan your augmented reality project.

Want to calculate the cost of your AR project, consult on your idea, and get answers to your questions? The Wikitude team and premium partner HQSoftware will be more than happy to help.

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