Tell me everything I need to know about how augmented reality works.
Hello! Thanks for your question about all things related to augmented reality. I personally enjoyed researching this because I'm fascinated by all things tech related. The short version to your question is that there are many different players marketing hardware and platforms related to this technology. Below is a more detailed overview of my research and findings.
SUMMARY OF THE MAIN PLAYERS WITH PLATFORMS
Through the use of Augmented Reality (AR), Aurasma's goal is to transform the way we interact with ordinary items used on a daily basis. As such, they're a leader in providing AR platforms. They've identified the fact that consumers are frequently bombarded with new apps and thus, have provided companies with the ability to differentiate themselves by enhancing their mobile apps. As such, consumers are better able to "unlock" information around them (ex. an image, object or location) through the use of their smart phones. As a result of this, companies using this technology have seen increases in conversion rates and consumer engagement. A major benefit to Aurasma's technology is that it can be used across many different industries to highlight benefits best suited for consumers within each industry. They're constantly evolving to meet changing needs of companies and their consumers.
Cost: It's free to download the developer app and users have access to the web-based studio to create and manage their resulting apps (aka auras). However, with a paid subscription, users have access to enhanced features such as analytics for auras, priority support and creative support. Pricing is based on length of subscription and the number of auras created. Specific pricing can be obtained by submitting a request for a quote through their website.
With the use of Layar Creator, users are able to create, publish and share (via the Layar developer app) their own AR app. The Layar app is available on Apple, Android and Blackberry. Virtually any object (ex. flyers, postcards and packaging) can be brought to life with interactive content such as videos and slide shows. Users can easily track and analyze data corresponding with their apps. To date, their site says that the apps have been downloaded over 40 million times and that there are 100K+ creators using the developer app.
Cost: The developer app itself is free to download but users have a few payment options when it comes to accessing the full suite of features associated with creating apps. With a basic plan, users pay $3.50/page (page = app) which will be live for 30 days. $34/page will ensure your creation is live for 1 year. Both of these are considered pay as you go plans. A premium subscription costs $340/month and gives users access to more advanced features. Price per page for this package costs extra.
Vuforia is another leader when it comes to AR platforms. It's respected for its:
2. Its integration with a number of platforms such as iOS, Android, tablets, digital eyewear and Virtual Reality (VR) viewers
3. Its ability to interact with everyday items such as books, toys and magazines (all of various shapes and sizes) by using a technology it has patented called VuMark™ and
4. The creative flexibility it gives developers
To date, more than 25K apps have been created using the platform and 225 million apps have been installed.
Cost: Vuforia offers 3 licensing packages built to suit the varying needs of its users. The "Starter" package is free of charge and offers access to the full platform but completed apps will include a watermark. There are also usage limitations. The "Classic" package is a step up and allows for various devices to be used and there are no usage limitations. This package is available for a one time payment of $499. The "Cloud" package offers developers the Cloud Recognition Service which allows for much higher cloud usage per month. Cloud - Bronze costs $99/month, Cloud - Silver costs $399/month and Cloud - Gold costs $999/month.
This company provides both AR and VR platforms for users to create apps. It's slightly different from others on the list in that it also includes VR creation capabilities whereas the other companies strictly focus on AR. Access to the platform is free of charge but premium developer apps are available with a subscription.
Cost: Their website states that subscription information would be made available by the end of 2015 but no new information has been made available to date.
SUMMARY OF THE MAIN PLAYERS AND THEIR HARDWARE
DAQRI is a leader in wearable technology and offers products such as their patented DAQRI Smart Helmet™. It has been designed for industrial workers to enable them to efficiently interact with the world around them through the use of multiple sensors. In essence, it combines 4D reality with AR to allow workers to better navigate and work within their environment. To accomplish this, the unit is equipped with cameras, a thermal dispenser, expansion ports and many other features that combine to make it a state of the art device.
In addition to the helmet and many other products, DAQRI also offers the
ARToolKit™ SDK which was developed to give programmers and developers the ability to develop AR apps across a variety of platforms (ex. iOS and Android). A key feature is the fact that it's available for use free of charge through open source (a result of being acquired by DAQRI in 2015 - it was previously only available through paid licensing). The hope is that this will spur further innovation within the ever growing and evolving industry.
This software development company offers the Infinity AR Engine which provides 3D representation of the external environment, characteristics of objects in the real world (essential for building a high qualify AR experience) and analysis. Infinity AR recently partnered with Lumus (a wave guide provider) to beef up the AR industry to match the success of VR by developing the DK-50 developer kit which will include the DK-50 AR glasses and an AR tracking system. The glasses are designed to project images onto the surface of the glasses and is considered ground-breaking because it extends the users Field of Vision (FOV) by 54-82% when compared to those of its competitors (22 to 26 degrees versus 40 degrees).
On March 31, 2016 it was announced that Vuforia would support the Microsoft HoloLens interface (Vuforia's SDK will be available on Microsoft 10). Specifically speaking, a demonstration of the new innovation saw the 3D project of a Caterpillar® Multi-Terrain Loader as a small scale version pulled from a sales brochure (with the use of an app on a tablet) which was then "transported" to a nearby space so that it could be viewed in its actual size. The thought behind this is it will give companies better selling capabilities if customers can see products that they normally wouldn't be able to while away from a show room. Modifications to the item can be made on the tablet and then reflected on the life size model.
AR TRENDS FOR 2016
As this technology becomes more widespread based on the increasing availability of apps, more content ultimately becomes available which in turn powers the growth of more applications. In the past, content has been largely driven by the gaming industry (for both VR and AR) but going forward, we're likely to see movement away from mostly entertainment needs. In addition to more content across more industries, growth is expected to be seen in the sporting world. Athletes and trainers will eventually have better access to training techniques and the resulting analytics. Spectators will also likely enjoy some evolution due not only to increased levels of entertainment but also levels of interaction.
DAQRI is currently promoting a "4D Expo", which is being billed as the first Enterprise Augmented Reality conference of its kind. It aims to bring together leaders within the industry as well as those with a keen interested in the technology. It's currently an invitation only event but more information will be made available shortly. In the meantime, interested individuals and companies can submit a request for an access code via the website. The access code will grant access to the event which will include a wealth of knowledge, expertise and the opportunity to network with key leaders not only within the AR industry but also within industries that use the technology (from advertising and agriculture to oil & gas/energy and transportation).
It's clear to see that there's a wealth of information available related to AR. Hopefully this overview has provided insight into which companies have emerged as key players and their corresponding platforms and hardware.
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