Augmented Reality (AR) Platforms and Technologies
Augmented Reality is "An enhanced version of reality where live direct or indirect views of physical real-world environments are augmented with superimposed computer-generated images over a user's view of the real-world, thus enhancing one’s current perception of reality." Unlike Virtual Reality(VR) that uses a completely virtual environment, Augmented reality uses the environment that currently exists and simply imposes or overlays it with new information.
Augmented reality is driven by certain applications that are built upon platforms and driven by certain technologies. We will dive deeper into what these are and how they help drive the entire world of augmented reality.
We began by finding a detailed description about Augmented Reality. We checked for technical reports and news articles for the same.
We found a source by Reality Technology that gave a detailed review of Augmented Reality; including definition, how it works inside and outside a device, how it is controlled, use-case examples and most importantly what technologies underlie Augmented Reality apps.
Our next step was to check for the platforms used in developing AR apps. We drew upon sources that issue technical updates and news for the required information.
We went on to look for popular AR apps. We were able to gather from an article shared by Forbes discussing the success of Pokemon Go (in terms of revenue). We also found a source that compiles the list of best AR apps that are compatible with iOS or Android operating systems. The inclusion of apps in the list has been done based on rating received by the app in the app stores (iOS or android)
Lastly, we verified the technologies underlying AR apps by finding more sources (tech updates) that discussed the same.
The under listed are AR Apps:
* Amikasa (4 star)
*AR Flashcards (4.5 star on iOS and 4 star on Andriod)
*Pokémon Go (3 star on iOS and 3.5 star on Android)
*WallaMe (4.5 star)
*Aurasma (3.5 star)
*Inkhunter (4.5 star on iOS and 5 star on Android)
*Ingress (3.5 star on iOS and 4.5 star on Android)
AR APPS PLATFORMS
The underlisted are platforms used for AR Apps:
AR APPS TECHNOLOGIES
The underlisted are technologies utilized to drive AR Apps:
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF EACH AR APP AND THEIR SUCCESS FACTORS:
-Amikasa (4 star) : This helps you take control of your living room space and choose the style, design even way before you buy your furniture. "Using your device’s camera, it is easy to walk around any space you want to furnish, placing 3D items to find out how they look."
-AR Flashcards (4.5 star on iOS and 4 star on Andriod) — "AR Flashcards works by pointing your device at printed flashcards, so 3D animals pop up on the screen. Tapping the animal causes it to say its name and the letter with which it starts."
— Pokémon Go (3 star on iOS and 3.5 star on Android) — "Pokémon GO stull uses GPS to mark the user’s location, and to move each player’s in-game avatar, while the device’s camera shows Pokémon in the real world."
-WallaMe (4.5 star) — "WallaMe allows users to leave hidden messages in locations throughout the world which can only be read by other people with the WallaMe app."
5. Aurasma (3.5 star) —"allows users to animate their world and use the interactive digital content to make images, locations and other objects come to life. Auras with a logo that can be scanned in the viewfinder to unlock whatever experiences have been hidden. Personal Auras can be created with a step-by-step creation wizard and shared with friends and other Aurasma users."
6. Inkhunter (4.5 star on iOS and 5 star on Android) — "Users can try out a range of pre-made tattoos, as well as their own designs. These can be placed in any number of positions on any part of the body."
7. Ingress (3.5 star on iOS and 4.5 star on Android) — "It works by players gaining Exotic Matter (XM) as they walk around. This XM can be used to take over virtual portals. When either team has taken three or more portals control of the area between the portals is gained."
DETAILS OF EACH AR APPS PLATFORM AND TECHNOLOGY
-AR Lab: AR Lab functions using two SDKs(Software Development Kits) namely:
(i) arbrowser and
(ii) image matching.
"arbrowser allows application developers add geolocation views in an extremely simplified manner and comes with features like video support, custom action capability, and start and stop functions. "
" Real-time image recognition engine which is capable of matching thousands of images even without an internet connection."
-Vuforia: This has over 400 million app downloads and installs worldwide and this app allows end users to augment objects, images, text, boxes and much more. Diverse apps have started using Vuforia to further enhance their very own applications.
— Wikitude: Wikitude has become a trailblazer in the area AR technology. They have worked into infusing AR technology into tablets, smartphones and digital eyeglasses. "The company’s SDK products are jam-packed with features like instant tracking, image and cloud recognition, and extended tracking."
— CraftAR: This is an easy-to-use AR SDK built by catchroom. Most of its functions uses a drag-and-drop system and as a result the user does not need to have software development skills to use it.
— DAKRI- This is uniquely different from other SDK's as it is an all-inclusive one. "They are known for their AR viewing devices like helmets and glasses; they truly are an AR-focused company. Their highly flexible SDK allows developers with little experience to learn the ropes while designing highly augmented mobile applications."
-Apple ARKit: This is an impressive technology which was announced at WWDC in June 2017. This platform works on any Apple device running on iOS11 and powered by an A9, A10, or A11 chip. Features include facial tracking and world tracking. "ARKit can use the iPhone’s camera sensor to estimate the total amount of light in a scene, then apply estimate shading and texture to virtual objects."
The downside is that it is limited only to Apple Products.
-Google ARCore: This is similar to Apple's ARKit in terms of light estimation, surface detection and spatial orientation. The only difference lies in how each company markets its Kit/Core. In addition, when Apple released its Kit, they had gaming and retail demos while Google tech had the ability to "annotate a painting with biographical information about the artist." Key features includes: integration with VR building tools Tilt Brush and Blocks to create 3D objects, Google lens which helps to bring up relevant information using visual analysis.
-Facebook AR Studio: This stands out from Apple and Google AR platforms because it is first a social platform before a tech company. They have an "AR Studio" which was announced in April 2017 during F8 (Facebook’s annual developer conference) and officially available to users in December of the same year- It was previously available only to a select few. AR Studio is an integrated desktop application which allows a user to create augmented reality using the front facing camera.
Key features: "Built into Facebook’s platform are facial cues to trigger animations (e.g. raise your eyebrows), segmentation to separate people from the background (think green screen), particle systems (a fancy, scripted animation), and a LiveStreaming module that pings you when someone uses your effect on Facebook Live."
-Snapchat Lens Studio: Snapchat announced its Lens Studio in December, 2017 and it is not enabled to allow everyone create facial augmentation unlike Facebook's AR Studio- You can only create "World Lenses" i.e Digital Objects and not giant anime eyes etc. This translated into less development time and more ad spend.
Key features include: Its embedded in one word- Snapcodes. The process involves creating a lens, send to snapchat which generates a unique QRcode(Snapcode) for you which can be scanned to unlock the lens. This is free for basic users but comes at a price for brands and advertisers ranging from $8 to $20 in other distribute them at a cost per thousand.
Out of all the AR platforms out there, Snapchat seems to be the only thing close to a 'turnkey' solution that allows for a user's clear journey from concept to broadcast with easy to use features.
-Amazon Sumerian: This is Amazon's own AR platform which was announced in November 2017 as part of an AWS event. It is targeted at solving logistical problems that global organisation's face. "Sumerian is listed amongst dozens of storage, database, development, and security services, and companies using AWS include Netflix, Intuit, Hertz, and Time, Inc. It’s safe to say this product is for the big guns."
Key features; One key features that sets it apart from the rest is “platform-agnostic”. "Sumerian is aiming to be the blood type O of the AR development world — you can run whatever you build on Rift, Vive, iOS devices (yes, there’s support for ARKit’s framework) and — soon — Android devices. This is possible because you edit in-browser" While the others(Snapchat, Facebook, Google and Apple) target consumers, Amazon targets enterprises.
-Superimposition Based Augmented Reality: This is the technology used by AR app companies, whether partially or dull developed, to create a newly augmented view of an object that can be used to replace the original view of the very same object which is achieved only when the object model is known. Hence, object recognition plays a critical role. A good example is Ikea augmented reality furniture catalog which enables users position virtual Ikea furniture in their own home with the help of augmented reality by simply downloading the app and using it to scan digital or printed catalog in some certain places.
-Projection-Based Augmented Reality: "With this technology, users can easily get involved with a new form of AR which simply projects artificial light onto real-world surfaces. It allows for human interaction by releasing light onto a real-world surface and then stimulating the human interaction of the projected light through touch or any other means."
— Markerless Augmented Reality: This is simply one of the most widely used application of augmented reality. It is also referred to as Geographical Positioning System(GPS) which utilizes a GPS or digital compass, Velocity Meter, an accelerometer installed in the device which gives the user's location in real time. "This technology is commonly featured with location-centric mobile apps that are used for finding nearby businesses and mapping directions."
-Marker Based Augmented Reality: This is an image recognition app that can be employed by any AR development company to create applicaton-based results. "Basically, it involves the use of a distinct, but simple pattern such as a QR/2D code and a camera to produce results. This is only achievable when a reader is used to sense the marker. The camera on the device plays an important role in helping to distinguish a marker from other real-world objects."
The key players in the augmented reality space include Google, Apple, Amazon, Snapchat and Facebook and they utilize technologies such as Superimposition Based Augmented Reality, Projection-Based Augmented Reality, Markerless Augmented Reality and Marker Based Augmented Reality to provide top-notch services.