AR SDK is a software engine that ensures the functionality of the augmented reality (AR) technology and actually makes your AR applications work as expected. The role of AR SDK is to perform the most difficult task of combining your digital content and the real world. It is the SDK that ultimately lays the foundation for your AR application’s capabilities, so it is very important to choose the right platform from the very beginning, according to the most sophisticated requirements of your AR project development.
Below is a list of 8 popular SDKs for building high-quality augmented reality applications.
Supported platforms: iOS 11/12
Pricing: free/$99 annual developer program for distribution.
The world’s biggest iOS platform for AR app development, ARKit helps create persistent and shared AR experiences, 2D and 3D image tracking and detection, quick look objects, and more.
The best iOS apps built with ARKit include, but aren’t limited to:
- Dance Reality,
- Solarscene, etc.
Supported platforms: Android 7.0 and higher, iOS 11 or higher.
ARCore is Google’s platform for building unparalleled AR experiences. Using different APIs, ARCore enables your device to sense its environment, understand the world and interact with data at your fingertips. Some of the APIs are available across Android and iOS to enable shared AR experiences.
ARCore uses 3 key capabilities to integrate virtual content with the real world as seen through your phone’s camera:
- Motion tracking to let your device understand and track its position relative to the world;
- Environmental understanding to enable your device to detect the size and location of all type of surfaces, be this an angled surface like the ground, a coffee table or walls;
- Light estimation to let your smartphone estimate the environment’s current lighting conditions.
Examples of some of the best ARCore apps include:
- Measure App,
- Just a Line,
- AR Stickers,
- Stack Tower,
- Beer Pong.
Supported platforms: Android, iOS, UWP and Unity Editor.
Pricing: tier-based starting at $99/month.
Looking to build an enterprise AR solution? Vuforia is one of the most preferable tools among VR/AR/XR app developers (the current user base exceeds 500K developers worldwide). Vuforia features a drag-and-drop interface that significantly facilitates the processes of AR development and rendering.
Examples of the groundbreaking apps built with Vuforia include:
- Ask Mercedes app by Mercedes-Benz which enables customers to simply point their device at the dashboard to find out how to use all the various features of a particular car model;
- LEGO Nexo Knights that connects the TV show, digital game, and physical toys (which had received more than 2.7 million downloads in its first 60 days);
- Fujitsu that built a highly-immerse AR app for its sales team to virtually demonstrate how products would look and function in a customer’s environment, in real-time and at scale.
Supported platforms: Android, iOS, Windows for tablets, smart glasses (Epson Moverio, Vuzix M100, ODG R-7).
Pricing: free + tier-based
As the world’s leading indie tech provider, Wikitude features a global AR development ecosystem spread across more than 180 countries and comprised of over 125,000 AR developers and featuring more than 25,000 apps.
Wikitude comes equipped with some very powerful features including object and scene recognition, image and cloud recognition, instant tracking, location-based services, multiple image target, extended tracking, and 3D augmentations.
Supported platforms: Android, iOS, Windows, Mac OS, Unity.
Pricing: tier-based, starts at $50/month.
Maxst boasts the following powerful features:
- Quick tracking of image/object recognition performance;
- Multi-platform support;
- Easy-to-implement effects;
- External camera input support;
- Smart glasses support;
- Cloud recognition;
- All-in-one solution for AR experiences’ creation.
Examples of successful apps built with Maxst are:
- Canada AR,
- Volvo AR Stories,
- AR Money, etc.
Supported platforms: PC, Android, iOS, Windows, WebGL
This SDK has a great team behind: former NASA software engineers and 3D modellers and developers from Candy Crush and Hailo apps. It comes with 4 effect types: rigid objects, deformable masks, morph masks, and post processing effects, and is a perfect fit for developers looking to add the highest quality, mobile-optimized, Snapchat and Facebook style 3D and realistic face lenses, masks and special FX to iOS, Android, HTML5 and Unity applications.
DeepAR has partnered with a number of innovative mobile ad networks to integrate the DeepAR Ads SDK to enable unique, advanced AR ad unit with global reach.
Brands like Armani, Sephora, and Ray Ban leverage the power of AR by using DeepAR SDK. Check use cases on their website.
Supported platforms: Android, iOS, UWP, Windows, Mac and Unity Editor.
Version 2 of the SDK contains a free library and the following key features: 3D Object Recognition; Environment perception; Cloud Recognition, Smart Glass Solution, and App Cloud Packaging.
It’s considered a great free alternative to Vuforia.
Supported platforms: Android, iOS, Windows.
Pricing: Free trial version for non-commercial use/2200 Euro for unlimited number of apps.
This Hong Kong-based AR SDK provider offers solutions for augmented vision, augmented face (that comes with a special Unity plugin), and magic face (for non-rigid face tracking and enhancements).
We’ve put together the comparison table that compares and contrasts these 8 AR SDKs in terms of available features and their robustness.
As our analysis shows, Wikitude is an indisputable leader followed by ARCore and Vuforia. While the availability of AR SDKs and platforms is a positive trend that will help drive up AR/VR/XR mass adoption and traction, it’s impossible to create unsurpassed AR experiences without involving human AR developers.
However, the shortage of AR dev talent is already pretty huge globally and, according to expert forecasts, it’s only going to be harder to hire high-quality AR developers. The reasons are pretty obvious:
- Good AR/VR developers are a subset of good software developers who’re in short supply all over the world today;
- Gaming industry has traditionally had the highest demand for AR/VR developers and drained the market, so time is needed for a new generation of AR developers to grow and become mature enough to build next-gen AR experiences;
- In the US, only about 11,400 people graduated from Universities with a Computer Science or Computer Engineering degree in 2011. Although that number is rising, it’s still far behind the estimated 500,000 developer jobs left unfilled each year.
How to tackle AR talent shortage issues?
If hiring AR dev talent internally/onshore is a big bump in the road for your AR project development, as it’s time-consuming and expensive, why not look beyond your home country for remote/offshore talent.
There’re traditional hotspots for VR/AR talent like, for instance, Ukraine that has a vast tech talent pool (for all mainstream and rare technologies and skills) and offer foreign clients the benefit of cost arbitrage. Ukraine is home to such AR-driven startups as Looksery (image processing) that was acquired by Snapchat for $150 million in 2015.
Less than a year ago, another Ukraine-based AR startup 3D Look raised $1 million in funds to enable body measurements with a smartphone.
According to the latest reports, in Ukraine, more than 20,000 AR/VR developers (including 3D, Unity, Unreal developers, etc) are currently employed by the gaming industry alone, with the overall pool being assessed at over 185,000 specialists as of the end of 2018.