AR App Development: Hyped or Mandatory Technology in the Future?

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Cutting-edge technology continuously changes rules in the business game. Tech solutions that we saw yesterday in films become trends and inseparable tools to compete in the market today. One such game-changer is augmented reality (AR). This technology can completely overturn our ideas of marketing, interaction with products, quality of services, and our world view overall. World-renowned companies such as Apple, Google, Facebook, Samsung, and Sony spend a lot of effort and money in AR development, including software and hardware.

According to the Grand View Research report, the global AR market size was estimated at $17.67 billion in 2020 and is expected to reach $26.75 billion by 2021. Moreover, this number is supposed to grow to $340.16 billion by 2028, with an impressive compound annual growth rate of 43.8%. The reason is AR provides a lot of advantages and new opportunities for growth and development for numerous industries.

In this article devoted to augmented reality app development, we will talk about the different types of AR solutions, technologies used for AR development, and see how different industries leverage this technology.

  1. Brief Overview
  2. Types of AR Apps
  3. Effort Required to Develop AR logic
  4. AR App Development Technologies and Tools
  5. Industries that Invest in AR App Development
  6. Conclusion

What Augmented Reality is

Augmented reality is a technology that provides a unique experience, combining real-world surroundings with a digital overlay. It’s based on three pillars: a mix of natural and virtual worlds, their real-time interaction, and precise registration of virtual and real objects. 

The fundamental difference from virtual reality is that the latter generates a separate virtual environment while AR overlay augments the picture with virtual objects. Augmented reality and mixed reality (MR) functionality look similar, which can confuse people unfamiliar with immersive technologies. The core difference between them is that MR creates a semi-virtual environment. Objects from the real world can interact in real-time and influence generated 3D models. At the same time, AR only adds one more layer of visual content on the device screen. If you try to touch a model in an MR app, there will be no response. In the case of AR, your finger doesn’t matter in the app unless it’s an obstacle to model projection. 

The main AR benefit is mobility and availability; you don’t need special hardware to use AR. Apps work perfectly on smartphones or tablets. There are special AR glasses and headsets, but they are not mandatory. Using the device’s camera, AR analyzes the surroundings. After that, algorithms process parameters of augmented objects, and users see them on the screen. In short, AR is just another way to input and output data. Instead of a keyboard, the system uses a camera, which makes augmented reality app development more affordable and widespread than VR, which needs an expensive headset and powerful computer for processing.

3 Main Types Of The AR Applications

Augmented reality app development technologies and use cases

Before we move to use cases and discuss what industries may think about investment in AR app development, let’s review the types of AR solutions and clearly demonstrate the main capabilities of this technology.

Marker-based Apps

This application type is based on the identification and recognition of special image targets. When users aim cameras at them, the system overlays new data, which can be interactive modules, or perform only information tasks. 

Image-targets can be almost anything from QR codes to brand logos, located anywhere. Such AR applications are popular in retail for marketing purposes, education, and entertainment. Mixing offline and virtual realms, it provides users with entirely new experiences. The gamification aspect is of great interest and helps people better remember information, no matter if it’s a marketing pitch or exercise from a textbook.

This demo video shows how a marker-based AR app works:

Markerless Surface-based Applications

You have probably seen similar applications before—one of the most famous examples is IKEA Place. This AR app lets you virtually place true-to-scale furniture 3D models in your very own space.

In this type, augmented reality app development revolves around the recognition of surfaces perpendicular to each other. The algorithm analyzes the space around you and identifies floors and walls. After this, the AR app places the 3D models on the surfaces, considering size and perspective. Users see virtual objects on the screen as if they are part of their natural surroundings. They even can go around and look at augmented models from all sides.

This type of AR app fits perfectly for demonstrations. A simple example is when customers look at your product before purchasing. This can be furniture, car accessories, decor elements, clothes, and many other things. Providing such a new experience for clients will be a significant competitive edge in the current mobile-oriented realm. Such applications help customers make their choices in their favor. 

This video demonstrates the working principle of surface-based AR applications

Projection-based Augmented Reality App development

This is the most complex and exciting software that augmented reality mobile app development services can offer to numerous business domains.

The way these AR applications work is similar to marker-based apps. However, instead of images, it scans and recognizes physical objects and overlays them with virtual layers; thus, users can simultaneously interact with existing and digital objects. This is an excellent example to demonstrate how it works.

Such AR applications are widely used in manufacturing. The most common case is AR assistant systems that significantly improve the quality of services and employee performance. They’re also popular in the healthcare industry, in which they are used for training purposes.

Additional Сategories of AR Solutions 

Suppose you already researched the topic of augmented reality app development. In that case, you may have noticed that some sources emphasize one more type: location-based AR apps. However, in our opinion, this is more of an additional functionality rather than a distinguishing feature. Any AR app can mix marker and projection features and implement geoloсation features to provide extra functionality. It’s a very flexible technology that can easily change to cover particular needs.

In addition to GPS technology, AR applications can also use a network connection to create virtual rooms for several users to interact with the same objects in real-time. Add to this artificial technology and IoT devices and you will see that AR technology can offer you much more capabilities than meets the eye.

How Much Time is Needed to Develop Each Type of App

Augmented reality app development technologies and use cases

Our experts made an approximate estimation of the effort required to develop AR logic for each type of application. This estimation doesn’t include other augmented reality apps development stages such as UI/UX design, 3D modeling, and potential implementation of other technologies. 

The most simple app from a developer’s point of view is marker-based. The most minimal effort required to code such an app starts from 160 hours. Depending on the quantity and complexity of image targets, this estimation can grow.

The second place in the context of spent effort is surface-based AR app development which needs a minimum of 250 hours due to the variety of surfaces needed. The app has to recognize and process them from any angle properly and provide precise positions of the virtual layers. They can be different colors and shapes, or different textures like glossy or matte. The combination of these factors leads to increased time required for the development.

The most complex and time-consuming AR applications are projection-based types. The logic of such apps will require no less than 500 hours. Such a vast leap is due to the app operating with real 3D objects. It has to be capable of complex scanning shapes such as cars, manufacturing equipment, and the human body, depending on the app’s purpose. It has to work from any position and perspective with different light intensities and properly process glare and reflections. Further, the app has to recognize the location for an augmented layer to provide users with valid information.

AR App Development Technologies and Tools

Augmented reality app development technologies and use cases

Currently, developers have numerous tools in their arsenal to create AR applications, and their review and comparison deserve a separate article. However, we will briefly list the most popular of them, just to give you a basic understanding.

As we mentioned above, augmented reality mobile app development is actively boosted by Google and Apple. Each platform has its own software development kit (SDK) for augmented reality experiences without any mediators. These are ARCore for Android and ARKit for iOS.

In addition to mobile native SDKs, there are a lot of multiplatform solutions, and Vuforia is one of the most popular of them. Using this engine, based on Unity, you have to write one codebase for different platforms, including Android, iOS, and Windows versions for optical see-through digital eyewear devices such as HoloLens, ODG, and Epson. Microsoft also can’t stand aside and has equipped the developer community with their Windows Mixed Reality (WMR) platform for AR app development for various AR eyewear.

Industries that Invest in AR App Development

Augmented reality app development technologies and use cases

Gaming

The gaming industry is the biggest investor of augmented reality mobile app development so far. According to Hackernoon prediction, the potential revenue of the AR gaming industry will be $11.6 billion by 2025, which is double that of healthcare in second place. It’s believed that AR implementation can be a gamechanger in the evolution of mobile gaming overall. This technology provides gamers a newer, more immersive experience, new game genres, and new mechanics. Today, companies continue to experiment with utilizing AR capabilities. In the coming years, the impact of augmented reality on the game industry will only continue to grow.

Healthcare

Augmented reality has many applications in the healthcare industry. There is software that assists doctors and surgeons, providing all necessary information about patients, supporting remote communication of experts all over the world in real-time, and new mothers and patient education. Most of these solutions are developed for AR eyewear to leave doctors’ hands-free. AR implementation in the healthcare process helps increase the quality of services and ultimately helps save more lives.

Manufacturing and Industrial AR

Augmented reality app development technologies and use casesThe screenshot is taken from youtube video.

Currently, manufacturing is one business sector that leverages almost 100% of the potential of augmented reality app development solutions. Many industries and companies already use AR applications for the purpose of repair and maintenance, quality assurance, assembly, and workforce training. This allows them to increase the performance of their production lines, decrease cost on maintenance, and provide more safe work conditions for employees. Porsche reduced service resolution times by up to 40% by equipping technicians with AR glasses. 

Read our article Uses of Virtual and Augmented Reality by Industrial Companies to learn in detail about the benefits that VR and AR can provide for manufacturing and engineering companies.

Marketing and Commerce

Nowadays, augmented reality is a powerful instrument that many companies use in their marketing and sales strategies. They invest much money in AR app development to impress their customers, providing them with new, extraordinary experiences. One of the most popular application areas is giving customers the chance to try products before purchasing. Such companies as IKEA, Porsche, Loreal, already have such AR apps. They let users sense how to feel these things before buying. After that experience, it’s hard to resist the desire to buy their products. Augmented reality is also an excellent option to attract the attention of potential customers and increase your brand awareness.

Education 

Every year augmented reality raises popularity in the education industry. More interactive and comprehensive ways to receive knowledge motivate students to learn better, increasing their engagement in the process. Also, many AR apps were developed to provide people with the same quality of knowledge. 

Besides K-12 education, AR training is also in demand in different industries, decreasing onboarding time and assisting employees that reduce error probability and time required to perform tasks. Overall, such innovation leads to increased business performance in different business processes.

Military

The military is constantly harnessing new technologies and augmented reality app development solutions are on this list. This includes tactical AR systems that help a soldier complete a mission efficiently and quickly. There are also training programs for recruits from different branches of our armed forces, decreasing training time, and improving results. Now, these applications are in the development stages and exist as prototypes. However, augmented reality has all the chance to become an inseparable part of any modern military.

Tourism and Navigation

Augmented reality offers extensive capabilities for the tourism industry. AR apps can dramatically increase quality and joy from journeys. There are interactive hotel and restaurant elements, virtual exhibition routes, and many others. Imagine if users can see how the destroyed Colosseum looked centuries ago through the app. It’s an excellent option to instantly get information about a cafe’s menu, rating, and the best dishes, just aiming a smartphone camera at a signboard. Augmented reality is used to improve user experiences and provide new impressions, which is mandatory in the tourism business.

Conclusion

Given that the number of mobile devices worldwide is expected to reach 17.72 billion by 2024, AR apps will be more popular and in demand. It’s possible to think about being in pioneering companies to harness all of AR’s capabilities. Augmented reality provides benefits for many industries. Year after year, their number will grow. Gartner predicts that by 2022, some 70% of enterprises will be experimenting with immersive technologies for consumer and enterprise use, and 25% will have deployed to production. AR is a future technology that can provide a significant and immediate impact on almost all areas of business and help a company on its journey toward successful digital transformation.

If you have questions about AR app development or VR solutions, NIX experts are always ready to consult you and help you realize your ideas in market-ready products.