Augmented Reality (AR)

Part
01
of three
Part
01

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.

METHODOLOGY

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.

AR APPS

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:

*ARLab
*DAQRI

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

PLATFORMS:

-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.

TECHNOLOGIES

-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."

CONCLUSION

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.


Part
02
of three
Part
02

Augmented Reality (AR) Builders

The ten companies that are building AR apps and can handle the complex task of bringing an Augmented Reality app to reality are Contus, Inde, Apphitect, Zco, Kagiso interactive, CortexStudio, Tothemoon3d, Scope AR, Metavision, and iMOBDEV.

METHODOLOGY

We based our research on different precompiled lists of companies and vendors that are building AR apps. For each company, we provide a brief description of what they do. All the companies we list are building AR Apps for their customers, and are able to build a custom app. Since prices vary for AR products in this industry, nine out of ten of the companies on the list did not disclose such prices but rather requested for potential buyers to directly contact them for a quote by filling a form on their website. In regard to the timelines for developing an app for each company, such info was publicly unavailable despite extensively searching for them through official corporate websites and other related third party sources like user sites.

1. Contus

Contus is a SMAC company located in Chennai, India. They develop mobile apps on trending technologies like Wearables, IoT, Augmented reality, Beacons, and BLE 4.0. Contus develops mobile apps for different industries such as the car industry, food industry, healthcare, finance, and e-commerce.

The company doesn’t disclose prices for its AR services. However, a prospective client can obtain a quote by filling a form on their website.

Contus custom builds AR apps for clients that can be completely customized thus ensuring that the possibilities for improvisations are endless.

2. Inde

INDE is an award-winning AR developer firm. They specialize in developing apps for the entertainment, and education industry, as well as marketing firms. They provide professional AR solutions "ranging from mobile to large-screen AR experiences with exceptionally high-quality 3D, to create next-generation platforms that change the way people interact with content". The company offers customizable, interactive AR apps for clients. They also offer a custom 3D experience.

To get a quote, INDE prefers to be contacted. They do not disclose their prices publicly.

3. Apphitect

Apphitect is an AR developing company that is focused on mobility, cloud, social, and analytics solutions. They serve the hospitality, retail and eCommerce industry. Their services include Apphitect designs and customization, as well as app testing.

The company doesn’t disclose prices for its AR services. A quote can be obtained by filling a form on their website.

4. Zco

Zco Corporation says for themselves they are "one of the best augmented reality organizations providing incredible AR solutions for its customers". Zco offers a "blend of creativeness, innovation and research" by building high-quality AR apps both for private consumers and business companies. They also offer complete 3D models based on AR technology. On their website, they specify that they offer custom AR app development.

Zco Corporation doesn’t disclose prices for its AR services. Potential buyers can request a quote by filling a form on the website.

5. Kagiso interactive

Kagiso Interactive is an AR app developing company that offers several services, including ARmobile apps, VR mobile apps, AI, mobile app development, web platform development, encrypted communication software systems, machine learning, and deep learning. They offer customized AR software and AR markers and promise that their products have the ability to capture audience attention.

The company doesn’t disclose prices for its AR services; however, inquiries can be made for a quote by filling an App Development Info form on their website or emailing info@kagisointeractive.com.

6. CortexStudio

CortexStudio is an innovation studio. They develop value-added AR products for different industries. Their expertise is in "Web GL, Unity 3D, VR Headset, Google Daydream, 360 Videos, 3D Models, HTML5 & CSS3". They say they develop "customizable interactive and intuitive augmented reality experiences for customers’ web and mobile platforms".

The company doesn’t disclose prices for their AR services. However, clients can be provided with a quote after filling out a form on their website.

7. Tothemoon3d

To The Moon is a company that specializes in "creating unique immersive experiences". They offer high-quality AR app development, AR content creation, and AR design. They offer 100% custom applications.

The company doesn't list their price on their website but will provide them if the client expresses interest.

8. Scope AR

Scope AR is a company that offers the most "effective hands-free AR device on the market, bringing live remote support with a 3D annotation to the Microsoft HoloLens". Scope AR offers custom AR apps for the clients.

The company doesn’t disclose prices for its AR services. However, a quote can be obtained by filling a form on their website.

9. Metavision

Metavision is a company that specializes in developing AR experiences that can be seen through special glasses. The company offers AR experiences that include images and other visuals, as well as 3D models for a wide range of industries. Apart from building AR apps, Metavision also is available for developing custom apps for the customers.

The Meta 2 Developer Kit is available from $1,495.

10. iMOBDEV

iMOBDEV is a company that specializes in developing AR apps Android and iOS platforms. Their AR solutions include custom AR app development, programming, code writing, UI/UX design, 2D and 3D game development, and cross-platform app development.

The company doesn’t disclose prices for its AR services. However, inquiries can be made for a quote by filling a form on their website.

Conclusion

We provide a list of ten companies that are building AR apps. The companies are Contus, Inde, Apphitect, Zco, Kagiso interactive, CortexStudio, Tothemoon3d, Scope AR, Metavision, and iMOBDEV.

Part
03
of three
Part
03

Building an Augmented Reality app

The process for building an AR app can be broken down into four steps:
1. Identifying the app's desired features
2. Selecting a software development kit (SDK)
3. Choosing a developer
4. Development
These steps are not discrete and there is likely to be some overlap. For example, an AR app builder would likely consult with their developer when purchasing an SDK. The developers involved in building an app could be freelancers or part of an established app development company. Individuals with expertise in coding, design, and user interface would need to be on the app development team.

We consulted tech industry publications in our research. Our deep dive, including development costs and a comparison of SDKs, is below.

step 1: Identifying the app's desired features

Before an AR builder can select an SDK or approach a developer, they should first consider what features they want the app to have. Some factors to consider are:

Will the app be marker-based or location-based?
What platforms will the app work on?
Will the app support the use of smart glasses, or cloud recognition?
Will the graphics be elaborate, or simpler?
Does the app need to have 3D recognition, geolocation support, and/or SLAM (simultaneous localization and mapping)?
What is the overall budget?
Once these issues are determined, the app builder can start looking at SDKs and approaching developers.

STEP 2: Selecting an SDK

A recent article from ThinkMobiles compares and rates several SDKs for AR app building: Wikitude, Vuforia, EasyAR, ARToolKit, Kudan, Maxst, Xzimg, NyARToolkit. While there are countless blogs and articles devoted to SDK selection, "8 Best augmented reality SDK for AR development for iOS and Android in 2018," was the most comprehensive source we found on SDK comparison.
The SDKs were assessed and rated on the following 10 features: maximum distance capturing / holding marker, recognition stability of immovable marker and movable marker, minimum angle recognition, minimum visibility for recognition overlapped marker, 2D and 3D recognition, geolocation, cloud recognition, and SLAM.

As with many consumer products, SDKs with more features simply cost more. Wikitude was rated the highest overall and is capable of all 10 features that were assessed. Annual prices for Wikitude range from €2,490 to €4,490, and quotes for businesses are available upon request. ARToolKit, a free and open source SDK, received the lowest overall rating. ARToolKit is not capable of 3D or cloud recognition, geolocation, or SLAM.

Step 3: Choosing a Developer

Once an AR app's features and potential SDKs have been considered, developers will need to be chosen. Options include established app development companies, as well as freelancers.
There a few considerations to keep in mind when choosing an AR app developer. Can the developer support the app's complexity? Will they provide post-launch and ongoing support? Check references, and ask to see other apps they have developed.

The app's overall budget will also play a role in choosing a developer. Prices are discussed in step four below.

Step 4: Development

In North America, AR development rates range from $50 to $250 per hour. Total development costs for an app are typically between $35,000 and $85,000, with AR games being as high as $200,000.
The initial planning phase of development, which includes discussing the app's features with developers and receiving a cost estimate, takes an average of 5 to 15 days, at a cost of $500-$1,000.
The actual development phase, including writing the app's main code architecture and creating the design, takes anywhere from 400 to 1100 hours. Individuals with expertise in coding, design, and user interface should be a part of the team.
Once an app is deployed and available for sale, annual maintenance costs will range from 10% to 40% of the app's initial development cost. As noted above, it is important to determine ahead of time if the developer or development team will be providing maintenance support.

Conclusion

To wrap it up, the steps in building an AR app are: identifying desired features, selecting a software development kit, choosing a developer, and development. We provided insight on how to assess SDKs and choose a development team. Depending on the app's complexity, it can take anywhere from 400 to 1100 hours to develop an app.
Sources
Sources