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Today and beyond of AR development

Augmented reality is a technology that allows you to create and place digital objects on real ones. With AR, we can "improve" the real world with extra features rather than create a new one as VR does. This fundamental difference makes AR development more demandable due to better flexibility and numerous ways to use it. Join us today to learn more about this fascinating tech that literally transforms the world in front of your eyes.

How AR development changes the world

Augmented reality is another fantastic technology that elevates communication between humans and machines to a new level. It uses sensors and complex algorithms to combine two originally independent environments – the real world around us and the digital one. The virtual space in the latter is created by displaying programmed virtual objects on top of what the camera sees. This technology has found its use in a variety of industries, including gaming, advertising, healthcare, and more. Today we will be exploring how AR evolved over the years and what it promises to become in the nearest future.

AR vs. VR – what is the difference?

We believe that this question requires some explanation before we proceed to the post's main topic. Some people think that the AR/VR difference is negligible, but we cannot agree with that. These technologies share some similarities, but the approach to visualization is nothing alike. To put it simply, VR sends you to a new location somewhere else. That place might be a digital copy of an actual location or entirely fictional. On the other hand, augmented reality brings artificial objects from the virtual world into real life.

You may conclude that VR wins this battle easily, allowing unparalleled immersion. Well, it is arguable. AR gives you more freedom and more original options to tinker with reality. Plus, to enjoy AR you do not need to wear bulky headsets – your smartphone will do the trick. The device's sensors can determine the current point of view to render 3D models correctly according to the camera position. It means that generated images will perfectly fit on the screen, ensuring optimal viewing.
Do not get the wrong idea here – VR also relies on sensors and carefully calculated algorithms, but it builds a digital environment around the user. As for means of control, it is also more complicated. Instead of having a smartphone in your hand, you will have sticks and a headset. Furthermore, most actions will require you to do actual physical activities.

The science behind AR

The basis of augmented reality technology is an optical tracking system. It has eyes (camera) and hands (markers). A camera is needed for capturing the space where digital objects will be projected. Markers are required for precise tracking and object placement. The camera recognizes markers in the real world, "transfers" them to a virtual environment, then adds one layer of reality on top of another, thus creating an AR world. There are three leading AR technologies for developing augmented reality apps.

Markerless AR

This tech utilizes special recognition algorithms. The whole area observed by your camera is covered with a virtual grid. Algorithms place several "anchor points" across the grid to determine where a certain virtual model will appear. The main advantage of this technique is that real-world objects serve as markers by default. Therefore there is no need to create any specific visual identifiers.

Marker-based AR

Although this method needs unique markers or tags to work with, it is often used in developing augmented reality products. Smartphone cameras detect markers without any problems and provide much better tracking for virtual models. Marker-based technology has proved to be more reliable than markerless and works almost flawlessly most of the time.

Location-based AR

This approach ties AR content to a certain location in the physical world. It requires information from your GPS, gyroscope, and compass to calculate the coordinates for virtual objects to appear. The augmented reality magic kicks in when the app's coordinates match with the user's coordinates.

Where can AR be used?

Augmented reality is not something new to the market. But it has been getting more recognition in recent years. In 2016, AR took the world by storm with the release of Pokemon GO. Obviously, the list of AR uses is not limited to games. AR has found its place in retail, in marketing, and in advertising. With AR technologies, marketers can boost consumer interaction with products in the most creative and memorable ways possible. But what about other fields where AR development is in high demand?

Education

Developing augmented reality apps can improve the learning experience for students. They will benefit from inspecting virtual objects from different angles by moving holograms or rotating them in space. This alone can revolutionize the approach to learning in biology, anatomy, cosmology, and more. Some advanced AR apps can even run scientific and mathematical simulations in 3D space, allowing viewing the results from any angle. It is possible to see how certain medications affect various organs in the human body. This type of learning is going to be more memorable and easier to understand by students.
The Elements 4D app

Appliances and furniture production

There are already dozens of apps that can add virtual products to your home environment. Point your device, click on the product, and see how it blends into the interior. Any appliances and furniture (plus their size and colors) can be changed on the fly. This is an excellent implementation of AR technology as it lets consumers visualize room decorations and find matching colors before purchasing. Seeing a product in a real environment before buying can make a whole world of difference and deliver more positive impressions.
IKEA Place

Clothing and fashion

AR simulates an in-person shopping experience online by allowing customers to see how a product might look on them. For example, you can see if a jacket or pair of new sneakers will fit your style. Basically, AR creates a private virtual fitting room. Smartphones, smart glasses, and wearable devices will provide a bulk of such experiences. Another cool way to use AR in this regard is by building public smart mirrors that facilitate shopping and fitting experiences.
Kinect for Windows Retail Clothing

Outdoor and indoor navigation

With the achievements of modern AR development, our everyday life can be much easier if we allow the tech to navigate us in outdoor/indoor environments. For indoors, a digitally drawn overlay on the ground may guide you towards a destination in a busy area (airport, mall, college campus, etc.). For outdoors, forget about address typing in your go-to map app – just select a point and watch the directions appear out of nowhere. Follow the AR-created trail on the ground and mind your business. Another nice trick with AR would be to "click" on anything tangible and receive info about it.
AR Navigation for Vehicles

Healthcare

AR will play a big role in the future of this sector. Augmented reality tools can educate patients and help them understand certain procedures. A simple visual demonstration or simulation can be enough to ease the stress before an operation or persuade a patient to take one. Also, AR can help doctors prepare for action. Apart from that, medical students in some colleges already have access to apps with super accurate and detailed representations of the human body.
Apple’s ARKit

Automotive industry

AR heads-up displays can help drivers process information more efficiently. This type of display indicates potential hazards occurring ahead of the vehicle. They can also make navigation easier with customized visuals that are tailored to the terrain. Renowned car manufacturers like Nissan, Audi, and Volvo already use this tech in their products. Additionally, AR development can be helpful in automotive marketing. How about checking out the car you wanted to buy without leaving your home? With modern AR apps, it is a piece of cake.
Augmented Reality Remote Support Software

Sports

American Major Baseball League is already exploring the possibility of using analytics data from baseball tracking systems to create AR experiences. Lots of information is being collected during each match to build a virtual space where fans can hang out and watch games. It is highly likely that this method will be adapted for other popular sports such as football, golf, basketball, and some others to provide a unique AR experience to fans.

What AR does for gaming?

As we said before, AR is a virtual content layer placed upon our physical world. Users can interact with digitally drawn objects via AR apps. But to do that, they need augmented reality tools – in most cases, smartphones or special gadgets like HoloLens goggles. Most primitive AR applications don't offer much – usually just a bunch of simple actions with one of two virtual objects on the screen.

But game development with AR features is more than that. How about a chess match, where you have a virtual board with chess pieces projected on your table? Want more? Then you will love action games with AR where you need to interact with multiple elements and layers atop the physical environment. In other words, expect enemies jumping onto you from the closet or attacking from under the bed!

Such games blur the line between two realities. This gives you a unique experience and fully immersive gameplay. In addition to that, we can say that AR provides more freedom than VR because you don't need headsets and controllers to play.

If you dig deeper into the history of AR gaming, it becomes clear why this technology has become so successful. It provides limitless space for imagination and various gameplay scenarios allowing people to catch monsters in their neighborhood or search for ancient artifacts in their homes. AR offers a unique experience, unlike anything you have seen in traditional video games. To get a better understanding of AR in the gaming industry, let's go on a quick tour and check a few titles that made the tech more mainstream and popularized it to a certain degree.

The evolution of AR games

In our opinion, the starting point for implementing AR in games has become an independent experiment. A group of enthusiasts and avid gamers set on the quest to discover "what if we add AR to our favorite shooter." That shooter was Quake, by the way, so no wonder why this experiment got such a massive following.

ARQuake (2000)

To bring Quake onto the streets of their home city, the developers from Wearable Computer Lab had to create a mobile game station. They managed to produce a working prototype that was more than playable (for the first outdoor AR game ever made).

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RiH0IXQQpio

The project was called ARQuake. The original game's source code was relatively simple, which allowed developers to write algorithms that could modulate the correct behavior for textures. Plus, it could be played in real-time. The devs added light invisible textures with collision to simulate physical objects, while players could only see things from the real world.


Ingress (2013)

Ingress lets you become an agent and join one of the conflicting factions. The main goal is to conquer the planet. This game motivates you to explore the real world while interacting with the points of interest marked on the global map. So instead of wandering in another fantasy environment, you will be walking the augmented streets of your native city. There is no other way to unlock a location apart from going to it on foot. To make this concept work, the developers from Niantic used Google maps and its resources in combination with Internet + GPS. Such implementation did not require fiducial markers and additional devices to determine the player's position in space.


Pokémon GO (2016)

An app for those who want to become Pokémon trainers. All you need is a smartphone with Internet and GPS. The game is mainly about exploring because it never shows players the exact locations of monsters. Still, you get some hints on where to look for them. The game will notify you when you pass near the area where a pokemon is hiding. After that, prepare your Pokeball and try to catch your prey.


Apart from exploring, the gameplay in this addictive AR game is simple but ingenious. Here is the global map with pokestops and gyms. The stops provide various items such as pokeballs, eggs, and potions (you will need those to power up your bestiary). Gyms are places for team fights. Both these points of interest use the same portal concept from Ingress (yes, Pokemon GO is also a Niantic product).

NFT marketplaces and AR development

Non-fungible tokens are one-of-a-kind digital assets tied to physical objects they represent. NFTs utilize the blockchain to verify ownership. There can only be one unique digital collectible with given parameters, thus the demand and insane prices for particular tokens. You cannot trade or exchange NFTs like cryptocurrency, which makes them non-fungible, as the name declares.

With the recent surge of interest in the niche, some creators saw huge potential in adapting AR for their work for extra depth and context. Have you ever thought how cool it would be to have at home some pieces of art from the best world museums? Have you ever been to a gallery where an artwork resonated so much, you wished you could take it home to admire any time? Now you can own a piece and have it not only readily available but enriched with 3D augmentations, sounds, and other virtual components that communicate with the environment around you. Recreate the painting or the whole showroom from the Louvre Museum or Tate Modern with its interior and enjoy deep immersion into the environment.

Augmented reality adds value to standard NFTs the same way non-fungible tokens boost the value of digital items with no physical form. If a person appreciates a digital painting, for example, then they will also appreciate the extra flexibility that comes with the AR experience. This approach might popularize AR technology in the future if the interest in NFTs remains high.

NFTs bring confidence to crypto investors by serving as proof of authenticity for digital artwork and evidence of ownership. Having a collection of NFTs today makes you a digital collector, so to say. And nothing stops you from reselling your tokens on various platforms, marketplaces, or auctions for making money.

One of the most notable NFT marketplaces is called Mintable. It accepts digital items (files, artwork, musing, images, etc.) that use blockchain technology and allows users to sell that content. The marketplace lets you create smart contracts to sell blockchain-related stuff. A smart contract is a self-executable algorithm written and integrated into the blockchain. You don't need to be a coder to use smart contracts – the platform does everything for you. Just provide information about your item, and the contract will be created in a sec.

Mobile AR vs HoloLens

AR-ready mobile devices offer fantastic market coverage multiplied by gadget accessibility and convenience. A smartphone is almost always with you. Installing an app takes less than a minute, and you are ready to enjoy augmented reality.

Modern phones are getting bigger and faster and receive enhanced displays, making the AR experience even better. The same applies to tablets, although they are not so popular among casual users. We say "casual" because tablets are preferable in some commercial and scientific fields.

With so many advantages on the side of mobile devices, is there any chance for other AR/VR gadgets like HoloLens to squeeze in? We believe there is! It may not be obvious how Microsoft's goggles can be used with better efficiency, so let's talk about specific details and advantages that made HoloLens a worthy AR tool.

Better complex visualizations

HoloLens is better for viewing something more complex than just a few virtual objects layered one on another. Talk about schematics, building plans, sophisticated models, fiber-optic cables, and so on. Microsoft's gadget has the depth perception that is so much needed in such cases. This feature immensely simplifies the work with complex 3D objects.

Hands-free

With AR, working or playing on your smartphone requires you constantly point and move the camera. But some jobs require free hands to perform certain activities, which renders phone-based tools useless. With HoloLens on, your hands are free for physical work while your eyes are focusing on reading information. Displaying guides, notes, or manuals in AR overlays greatly improves working capabilities.

More convenience

Some environments are dangerous for traditional electronic devices; some can be limited in space making a tablet or smartphone unsuitable for the job. However, if you need visual instructions on how to do the thing, HoloLens can save the day.
As you may have noticed, we see HoloLens more fitting for the category of augmented reality tools for work, not gaming. Of course, it does not mean that these goggles cannot be used for playing, but better save such sophisticated machinery for more complicated tasks.

How to find a partner for AR development?

This task might be a bit trickier than finding a typical developer for your project. Outsourcing parts of the project won't be cost-effective or less troublesome. It takes a combined effort of multiple developers, game designers, artists, and project managers to start and finish a decent marketable AR product. In addition to those, you will need to calculate approximate costs and time to do the job, so proper preliminary consultation is a must.

When your project consists of many complex parts, it would be better to entrust one implementer with as much work as possible. Otherwise, you will need a considerable amount of time to be spent on piecing outsourced fragments together. And time = money, especially when you have a bunch of project managers on a payroll.

In such a scenario, the easiest (and probably the smartest) way would be to hire a studio to work on your entire project. We want to offer our services to you in this regard. Argentics is a team of seasoned gamedev veterans that love creating augmented reality games. We implement AR projects of any complexity, on any platform, any framework. Our designers know how to create convenient and intuitive interfaces, while our managers will minimize your hassle.

For each client, we draw up a technical assignment in which we detail and agree on the entire mechanism of the project, selecting the best implementation methods for the job. We test, refine, and optimize until you get a perfect AR app!
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