How to Build an AR App?

Vladlen Shulepov posted on Feb 28, 2020

AR is one of the most powerful tools an app can have. The groundbreaking technology, being around for nearly 2 decades, seems to be finally taking off nowadays. 

The revenue from augmented reality mobile applications worldwide is expected to reach $15.497 million in 2022.

Global revenue of the consumer mobile AR app market (2016 to 2022)

Global revenue of the consumer mobile AR app market (2016 to 2022). Source. 

Among companies featured in the augmented reality development are well known-giants like Google Inc. (the U.S.), Microsoft Corporation (the U.S.), Lenovo (China) and Seiko Epson (Japan). As the market is rapidly growing, building an augmented reality app looks like a promising venture!

If you wonder how to create an augmented reality app, welcome to this guide. Riseapps is keen on creating top-notch mobile and web applications, including those with powerful AR features. In this article, we’ll lay out some basics about creating an AR app and share our experience on the topic. 

So what challenges developers face when they build an augmented reality app? Let’s kick things off with the AR definition.

How Does Augmented Reality Work?

Basically, AR means that computer-generated information, images, graphical elements, etc. are combined with things in the real world or images of real things. In other words, AR uses the existing environment while overlaying new information on top of it. As a result, users experience reality in a more engaging and heightened way. 

The most common example of AR would be Instagram masks or Snapchat filters that allow putting digital objects such as Golden Butterfly Crown or glasses onto your head. Another example of implementing AR would be the Pokémon GO game enjoying worldwide popularity in 2016. It overlays virtual creatures onto the real world. 

Pokemon Go - the most famous AR applicaiton in 2016

Pokemon Go – the most famous AR application in 2016. Source.

By the way, it’s only in the late 2010s that the world gained the extensive use of AR technologies outside the gaming field, and it’s starting to take hold. The experience can be accessed via a plethora of devices – from AR glasses to usual smartphones. The tools are built using SDKs that we’ll discuss below. 

Now, let’s dive into how the AR has already been used. For those interested in how to develop AR apps, it might give an overview of what the technology is capable of. 

How AR technologies Help Different Industries to Evolve Their Business

Businesses of all sizes and types can take advantage of AR. 

Retail

Retailers have much to obtain from augmented reality. The technology has been transforming the industry. 

The very common and basic advantage AR offers for retail is that customers can try on clothes, accessories, or literally anything before buying it. One of the most famous examples would be IKEA, a large Swedish-owned brand that allows customers to place furniture items into their homes via their smartphone. 

AR in this industry plays a particularly important role, as retail is making a slight transition toward entertainment.  

Manufacturing 

As opposed to the retail industry, most AR applications designed in the manufacturing realm are still in their young years. However, the potential is great and many major companies like Samsung have been adopting cutting-edge augmented reality tools. 

Looking at a piece of equipment through an AR device could reveal some important data related to a machine, such as its current performance, industrial output, and temperature. Using the technology, manufacturers can also overlay statistics, instructions, or basically any relevant information.   

Real Estate 

AR apps in this industry are the real catch. Finding buyers or tenants might be easier if renters can “walk through” rooms, apartments, and houses to decide if they want to live there. Moreover, real estate agents can display a 3D model of any property to buyers and potential customers. Going forward, buyers can also explore how their best furniture will suit a particular home. 

The app market for the real estate industry is pretty packed already, but if you really want to build an AR app for this field and can come up with a great tech solution, no doubt you’ll find your niche. 

AR-aided education

If you are going to make an AR app but not sure what industry to serve, you should definitely consider the education field. Goldman Sachs estimates that roughly $700 million will be invested in AR/VR applications in education by 2025. 

AR content can be a great tool for facilitating learning to make it more fun and engaging. Augmented reality helps teachers engage students in the classroom with dynamic 3D models relevant to the topic they are studying. 

Healthcare

AR has already been used in medicine for quite a while. For example, surgeons, using AR headsets such as Microsoft’s HoloLens, are able to see key patient data and digital images (e.g., details of a patient’s hernia) superimposed over the doctor’s field of view. This allows physicians to remain focused on a surgery task without looking away into different monitors.  

AR can also improve mental health. There are some augmented reality apps on the market helping manage anxiety. They blend storytelling, neuroscience, and game design so users harness their feelings and find a sense of calm. 

Moreover, AR tools can save lives. Atmoscan developed by Riseapps is the example of such endeavor. If you’d like to learn more about our experience using AR, just drop us a line. 

Ready to build your own AR solution?

Interior design and Architects

For interior designers, AR apps are a blast because they simulate their furniture and interior design products in 3D augmented reality in real-time. Creating a virtual product showroom could be immensely helpful in delivering interior design projects of any kind. 

For architects and construction teams AR apps can increase accuracy and efficiency, reducing the occurrence of errors and saving money, time and resources.

Dating

Using augmented reality to improve one’s love life cannot surprise anymore. 

An example would be an app using geolocation and camera that shows you if there are any singles available near you when you walk down the street. If so, they will be shown along with their name, age, interests, depending on how that user has configured their profile and permissions. As a result, people can strike up a conversation with strangers more easily, knowing about their intention to date. 

Sport

AR was often overlooked in the sports field by businesses as well as consumers, but not anymore.

Now it is commonly used for on-field decision-making. The widespread application you might have heard of is the Hawk-eye system – a solution for tennis, badminton, volleyball, soccer, etc. The technology visually tracks the trajectory of the ball or other objects to predict its most likely paths.  

Athletes can correct their actions and adopt better techniques by utilizing augmented reality in training sessions. For example, AR can overlay data over the real-world environment or incorporate data in pre-recorded videos. As a result, players gain a better understanding of their playing style to help improve their game. 

Tourism

Tourism is another industry where AR thrives. If you are to create an AR app in this field, the chances are you’ll succeed. In a nutshell, augmented reality apps allow travelers to explore physical locations and attractions. E.g. a user can point their smartphone at a building or landmark and learn more about it. 

Not only AR can improve travel convenience, but also cut down language differences and ensure travelers don’t get lost. 

Those wondering how to design augmented reality apps should definitely have a look at the top AR tools in this field, as most of them have stunning UI/UX. 

Marketing and advertising

There are many ways augmented reality is used in marketing and advertising. One of the latest advances is that it’s making its way into social media. 

In 2019, Facebook actively tested augmented reality ads with a small group of brands. They have been used to try on clothes and glasses before buying, to see how furniture looks in a user’s home or to test make-up. Going forward, click-through rates and purchases were substantially higher for AR ads than other types of advertising.   

Main Types of Augmented Reality Apps

For those wondering how to make an augmented reality app, it’s crucial to know about the two main types of such tools: marker- and location-based.

Market-based apps

Marker-based augmented reality is also known as recognition-based or image recognition AR. A marker is an object or image that the device recognizes. Basically, you can use any object with distinguished visual features as a marker. A device discovers the marker in front of the camera, replaces it with a 3D model, and provides more information about the object on the screen of the app. 

Although marker-based apps are common, implementing them means facing some challenges. E.g. a user should keep a marker within the camera range. If it loses the marker, the experience stops and no augmented reality experience is possible. 

The image-recognition technology is quite well-known and developed, so its cost wouldn’t be too high.  

When to choose marker-based application development? 

In a nutshell, marker-based development is your choice, if you want to show a user some information anchored to a particular place. It would work excellently in galleries or museums, where exhibits are tagged with markers and the application shows additional information, 3D images, and other photo and video content.

Location-based apps

Location-based AR is also known as a marker-less augmented reality. In this case, virtual content is related to a specific location. It is commonly used for travel applications to help people explore places. 

The technology utilizes GPS and other positioning systems, as well as information from the phone’s network to identify the user’s location.

When to choose location-based application development? 

To put it short, if you want your application to be more advanced, provide some more interaction and deeper immersion for your user— marker-less tools are your choice.

In case you are still not sure which type of AR tool you need, let us assist you in making this decision. 

Ready to build your own AR solution?

Augmented Reality Implementation Challenges

Building the AR app, you might discover some particular challenges. Let’s review some of them.  

Limited hardware capabilities

AR apps could be run on any device but they may not function as you expect. Although smartphones and tablets are becoming more and more swift and solid, not every AR experience is accessible on any device. E.g. smartphone cameras have different capabilities and might not be suitable for the creation of hybrid reality. Luckily, some applications work hand in hand with some special AR devices like Hololens, Meta 2, Google Glass, etc. 

Also, GPS sensors might not be accurate enough when a high degree of precision is required. In this case, apps can run into problems with the accuracy of the information display. 

Software challenges

Engineers often encounter software-related issues. Many of the solutions created for the needs of developers (such as Apple’s ARKit or Google’s ARCore that we’ll discuss below) have emerged only recently. Some of them are great, but it might be too early to say they are the winning solutions. While the situation is expected to improve in the future, developers are still being impeded by framework or other tech difficulties. 

Legal issues and regulations

There is obviously a lack of regulatory standards that apply to AR apps, which prompts some challenging questions. Who owns the right over the data being superimposed? Who is the author of the image in an AR app? Owners of landmark buildings could argue with AR engineers about the ownership over the information that an app delivers to a user.

How to Choose the AR SDK?

Here’s 3 most important steps to choose the right AR SDK: 

  • Decide on supported platforms

Needless to say, AR SDK you choose needs to cover the platforms where your users are. The more platforms your AR SDK supports, the more customers you can reach. Sometimes, however, it’s a good idea to opt for an AR SDK for the specific platform if it meets the basic requirements of your app.  

  • Select basic tools and solutions 

Each AR SDK solves some specific challenges, so your choice largely depends on the technical requirements of your future app. 

For example, your application might need 3D Tracking support. The feature means the ability to recognize 3D objects. This image tracking functionality can expand opportunities in AR apps to a greater extent. But some AR SDKs provide it, and some do not. 

Another example would be the geolocation feature. If you build a location-based AR app, you’ll need an augmented reality SDK with this particular tool. 

You might also require a SLAM tool, also known as Simultaneous Localization and Mapping. It’s a rather simple technology, which allows mobile apps to map an environment and track its movements in it. Though this technology is not limited just to attaching AR objects in the real-world environment, it can also create indoor navigation. 

  • Choose the type of license 

There are quite a few free AR SDKs available. However, many of them limited capabilities, which might become a hindrance to your development work. If you are keen to create an AR app, you might consider choosing an SDK with a commercial license. 

If you want to be sure what SDK to use for your particular project, send us a message and we’ll get back to you with the answer in no time. 

Ready to build your own AR solution?

The Best AR SDKs for Creating Augmented Reality Applications

Let’s explore some of the most powerful SDKs and frameworks for building a world-class AR app. We’ll briefly describe their features for you to make a thoughtful decision on whether they suit you or not. 

ARKit

ARKit is a framework developed by Apple back in 2017, which has now grown to a solid tool considered as one of the biggest iOS AR platforms. As for 2020, its major and most recent update – ARKit3 – provides a developer with 4 key tools allowing to make an augmented reality app. 

  • RealityKit helps integrate photorealistic rendering and camera motion effects with a native Swift API;
  • Reality Composer – a drag-and-drop tool that facilitates building interactive environments. With a library of objects and animations, it’s available for the iPhone and Mac users; 
  • People Occlusion is a tool to layer virtual content in front of and behind people; 
  • Motion Capture can track arms, legs, head or torso of a person in real-time. 

ARCore

This is Google’s platform for you to build your own AR app. Overall, it provides 3 key tools allowing to integrate virtual content with the real world:

  • Motion tracking allows a device to understand and track its position relative to the world; 
  • Environmental understanding allows to notice and discover the location and size of different surfaces, e.g. vertical, horizontal and angled like the ground, a coffee table or walls;
  • Light estimation allows the device to estimate the environment’s current lighting conditions. 

PTC Vuforia

Vuforia is an enterprise AR platform with a number of augmented reality tools and solutions. If you decide to create your own AR app using this SDK, you’ll be able to utilize the following features:  

  • Vuforia Engine offers dynamic Object Recognition and can perceive images, 3D models and environments to provide development flexibility;
  • Vuforia Studio allows to author and publish scalable AR experiences that transform manufacturing, service and training processes — without the need for extensive programming.

Wikitude

To make your own AR app with this SDK, your developers should work with Native or JavaScript API or choose Unity, Cordova, Xamarin or Flutter extensions. Among Wikitude powerful tools are: 

  • The online storage solution for large-scale AR projects. You’ll be able to host up to 100,000 target images to enable fast, reliable and scalable cloud-based AR experiences;
  • Code-free augmented reality editor helps manage, test and publish AR content; no programming skills required. 

EasyAR

EasyAR is a cross-platform SDK (for both – Android and iOS users) to develop an augmented reality application. Basically, it offers the 3 key tools:

  • Sparse SpatialMap allowing to scan the environment to build 3D point clouds in real-time; 
  • Dense SpatialMap allows generating a 3D mesh; 
  • Motion and surface tracking allows tracking device’s position relative to the world and the environmental structure. 

Here’s a brief comparison table of the most popular SDKs and frameworks. 

Platform (Android or iOS) Geo-Location Unity Price SLAM Cloud recognition
ARKit iOS + + Free + +
ARCore Android, iOS + Free + +
PTC Vuforia Android, iOS  + + Free (with watermark)+ сommercial +
Wikitude Android, iOS + Сommercial    + +
EasyAR Android, iOS + Free + Commercial + +

 

Our experience in AR app development

Riseapps has a wealth of experience in building all kinds of apps. Needless to say, we eagerly face the challenges of implementing AR tools. 

Recently, we’ve built Atmoscan – a weather AR app. With real-time accuracy, it allows users to see the direction of the wind and even possible gusts. Users can follow the slightest shift of the breeze in real-time – all is shown as the elements of augmented reality. 

Atmoscan - an augmented reality app built by Riseapps

The app has tons of different uses, and can help people navigate in times of natural disasters. E.g. during wildfires users can know where the winds are turning in the moment. The tool might be used for recreational purposes as well – Atmoscan can show waves created by breezes allowing users to find out where the fish waits for food. 

We’ll provide you with a list of tools and technologies we’ve used for building an app like this, so you can consider implementing them in your development process.

Platform iOS
Programming language Swift 4.2
Architecture pattern Application Coordinator
Framework for AR ARKit/SceneKit
Maps MapBox
Weather tracking

AerisWeather API/CoreLocation

Network Moya
Testing Fabric/TestFlight

Riseapps is proud to have created this iOS app from scratch, and receive some very positive feedback on the app from the client.

Conclusion

In this article, we’ve explored how to build an AR app. As we saw, the augmented reality tools are becoming more and more popular, being used in different industries. Though creating AR applications is a challenge, it’s definitely an exciting and promising venture. 

We’ve mentioned 2 main types of AR apps. Location-based tools work best if your app is going to be anchored to a particular place. If you need a more advanced tool with deeper immersion the marker-less one is your choice. 

There are many powerful AR SDK on the market. ARKit ARCore and PTC Vuforia are often named among the most prominent ones. Your tech requirements are the key factor to determine which kit to choose, along with the type of license and supported platforms. 

If you are going to develop an AR app, Riseapps is here to assist you. Our expertise allows us to take on the most sophisticated projects and work with the latest technologies. 

Drop us a line, and we’ll assist you in putting your idea into life.

416