Technology•Dec 17, 2019
The Future of Mobile AR: A Comparison Between ARCore, ARKit, AR Foundation, and Vuforia
Google recently announced the Depth API for ARCore, which allows depth maps to be created using depth-from-motion algorithms. This addition allows developers to conveniently create more realistic augmented reality (AR) narratives through occlusion. Although ARKit 3 has supported object occlusion since June 2019, the framework’s occlusion solves a slightly different problem of occluding people. To get a better sense of the current landscape for mobile AR, let’s look at the capabilities provided by ARCore, ARKit, AR Foundation, and Vuforia—all of which are major platforms and frameworks in this space.
Google’s ARCore provides motion tracking, environment understanding, and light estimation through your phone’s camera. The platform supports devices running Android 7.0 or later and iOS 11.0 or later. ARCore provides interactions through ray detection with detected planes and feature points in addition to your pose (position and orientation) in the actual world. ARCore also provides anchors to track an object’s position. ARCore’s Cloud Anchor API allows developers to store anchors in Google Cloud Platform with ease. This enables developers to create sharable AR experiences; however, persistent cloud anchors are currently in beta.
Similar to ARCore, Apple’s ARKit provides tracking, AR anchors, plane detection, and light estimation among other features. It supports iOS versions 11.0 or later. The ARKit framework also provides 3D object scanning and world tracking, which are currently not provided natively by ARCore. With the introduction of ARKit 3, the framework introduced people occlusion, motion capture, face tracking, and collaborative sessions. However, people occlusion and motion capture are restricted to iOS devices with a A12 chip or later (iPhone Xr or later).
Unity’s AR Formation
Unity’s AR Foundation fundamentally provides a layer of abstraction to ARCore and ARKit. The framework supports devices running Android 7.0 or later and iOS 11.0 or later. AR Foundation generally supports features provided in ARCore and ARKit. The framework provides additional support by allowing developers to access native ARCore and ARKit features directly via their respective Unity packages. AR Foundation is a great solution for incorporating AR features shared by ARCore and ARKit while also targeting features specific to the platform or framework.
AR Foundation Differences Compared to the Unity ARCore and ARKit Plugins
Vuforia is a platform designed primarily for object and image tracking for AR development. Vuforia allows developers to upload models, images, object scans, and other support target types to detect with its computer vision algorithms. It supports devices running Android version 6.0 or later and iOS 9.0 or later via Vuforia Fusion. However, the platform is limited to detecting objects from provided targets for recognition. As such, Vuforia generally shines when paired with ARCore, ARKit, or AR Foundation via the Vuforia Engine library.
Vuforia at a High Level
Comparison & Go Forward
The landscape for mobile AR is changing rapidly. AR experiences on our mobile devices are becoming more immersive. Currently, ARKit appears to be the most mature platform for mobile AR development. This may change soon with the recent announcement of ARCore’s Depth API since this feature does not rely on device-specific hardware. Choosing a mobile AR platform or framework depends on your use case. For instance, ARKit is a good option for building an app that tracks a person’s motion.
Features of major platforms and frameworks for mobile AR:
It’s an exciting time for mobile AR as these platforms and frameworks continue to bring changes. At Credera, we love helping organizations solve their greatest challenges with new technologies. Feel free to reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org to talk about your new project.