Augmented Reality SDK: Which are the best SDKs for Development in 2017



The role of AR SDK in App Development:

Augmented Reality comes down to the following three fundamental questions: where to display what and how.

  • Where: The where might involve areas like 2-D image matching and tracking, 3-D object matching and tracking, SLAM tracking, and location tracking (using GPS) and sensor-based tracking using accelerometer, compass, gyroscope. Sometimes the where is nothing more than some predefined point locations, often referred to asPoints of Interest (POIs).

 

  • What: On the other hand, the what might leverage 3-D model rendering, animations and gesture detection. In general, the what can be any piece of digital information (e.g. text, image, video) that the user might also have the ability to interact with (e.g. rotate or move it).

 

  • How: How is the very important, because it involves actual AR implementation and AR SDK performs this task on behalf of us (AR developers).

 

AR SDK: The core software powering an Augmented Reality experience is known as an AR SDK or AR Engine. It solves the difficult task of fusing the real world with the digital content. The AR Engines’ capabilities define the potential features of the AR application. 

AR SDK in AR App

 

Augmented Reality SDK facilitates many components within the AR application: AR recognition, AR tracking and AR content rendering.

  • The recognition component works as the brain of the AR app.
  • The tracking component can be stated as the eyes of the AR experience.
  • Content rendering is simply imaginative virtual objects and scenes on the real-time information.

An array of tools is provided to developers through SDK, required to recognize, track and render AR application in the most efficient manner.

Have you ever dreamed of making your own AR app? But you don’t know how to start? So, let’s start with available Augmented reality SDKs and which is more suitable for you?

Enterprise AR Solution and Cost of Development: 

Industry vertical AR solutions are focused on using scalable AR solutions to solve issues for industries such as retail, logistics, specific CPG categories and publishing. Pricing models vary substantially based on factors such as usage, comprised of licensing, support and volume of usage fees. 

AR Application Cost

 

Best Augmented Reality SDK for Developers (iOS+Android+Windows) in 2017

Let us discuss some of the numerous AR SDKs that exist at the moment and that can be used to develop apps for smartphones, tablets or even smart-glasses. So for this article, We are focusing on those SDKs which provide native Unity support and work with commodity hardware.

  1. Vuforia
  2. ARToolkit
  3. Wikitude
  4. Kudan
  5. MaxSt
  6. AR-media
  7. EasyAR
  8. CatChoom
  9. RoboCortex Rox

 

1. Vuforia:

Vuforia is one of the most popular platforms to help you work with augmented reality development which recognizes the 2D planar image as well as different types of visual objects (a box, cylinder, plane), text and environments recognition, VuMark (a combination of picture and QR-code).

Also, using Vuforia Object Scanner, you can scan and create object targets (Small, toy size objects). The recognition process can be implemented using the database (local or cloud storage). Unity plugin is simple to integrate and very powerful. All plugins and functionalities of the platform are free to use but include the Vuforia watermarks.

Supported platforms: Android, iOS, UWP and Unity Editor and Smart Glasses.

Official Website: www.vuforia.com

Features:

  • Mixed Reality and Eyewear Support including Microsoft HoloLens.
  • Recognize and track a broader set of objects (small toys)
  • Natural Interactions with Virtual Buttons
  • Vuforia Object Scanner
  • New CAD based detection to detect real-world objects like a car, bike, machine etc.

Pricing:

Licence Type Development Consumer (Classic) Consumer (Cloud) Consumer (Pro) 
 Price Free (WaterMark)  $499 one-time/app $99 monthly/app   On Request 
 Images, Objects, Text  Yes Yes Yes Yes
 Phones, Tablets & Eyewear  Yes  Yes  Yes  Yes
 OS Support  Android, iOS & UWP Android & iOS Android & iOS Android, iOS & UWP
 Cloud Recognition  1,000 recos/month  – 10,000 recos/month  10,000+ recos/month 
 VuMark 100 VuMarks  100 VuMarks 100 VuMarks 100+ VuMarks

 

2. ARToolKit:

DAQURI acquired ARToolworks in 2015 and along with it, the ARToolkit SDK which they promptly re-released as a fully open-source project, releasing all of the features previously available only in the “Pro” version to the open source community. ARtoolKIt is an open source tracking library for augmented reality.The source code for this project is hosted on Github and the compiled SDKs for all other platforms (Mac OS X, PC, Linux, Android, iOS), along with the ARToolKit plug-in for Unity3D. You can download the SDK directly from the official website.

ARToolkit provides support for three general categories of tracker:

  • Natural Feature Tracking (NFT)

    NFT is a sort of gold standard for feature tracking – it supports freeform 2d images which may not have a clearly defined and consistent outside edge. Examples include anything from a drink coaster to a roadside billboard.

  • Traditional template square markerThese markers are generally a fairly simple icon with a mandatory solid black border around the periphery. These are best thought of as “designed” markers rather than images that you may already exist organically.
  • 2D Barcode Markers
    These markers are predefined (in the SDK itself) and are typically highly optimized for rapid detection and solid tracking in variable lighting conditions. 

Supported platforms: Android, iOS, Unity Editor.

Official Website: www.artoolkit.org

Features:

  • Robust Tracking, including Natural Feature Tracking
  • Strong Camera Calibration Support
  • Simultaneous Tracking and Stereo Camera Support
  • One of comparatively few SDKs that supports Windows Phone
  • Full Unity3D and OpenSceneGraph Support

Pricing:  ARToolKit versions 5.2 and later are made available freely under the GNU Library General Public License version 3.

 

3. Wikitude:

Wikitude’s all-in-one augmented reality SDK combines 3D Tracking technology, Simultaneous Localisation and Mapping(SLAM), Image Recognition and Tracking, as well as Geo-location AR for apps. Wikitude SDK is a commercial solution but is also available as a trial version with some limitations like Wikitude logo in cam view etc. Wikitude SDK is currently available for Android and iOS platform. 

Wikitude also provides Wikitude Studio which eases the development procedure, where no programming skills are required and the app can be created by simply dragging object on the studio screen.

Supported platforms: Android, iOS, Unity Editor, Smart Glasses, JavaScript, Xamarin

Official Website: www.wikitude.com

Features:

  • image recognition & tracking
  • 3D tracking technology (SLAM-based)
  • GEO Data
  • Cloud recognition

Pricing:

License Type Development SDK PRO SDK PRO 3D CLOUD
 Price Limited Free (W-Mark)  2490 yearly/app 2990€ yearly/app   4490€ yearly/app
 Geo, 2D image recognition  Yes Limited Yes Yes Yes
 3D Engine (Studio support)  Yes Limited  Yes  Yes  Yes
 3D Recognition  – Android & iOS Android & iOS
 Cloud Recognition  – Yes

 

4. Kudan:

Kudan has opened up a new world by enabling  “networked intelligent vision” through combining IoT (computer’s eye) and AI (computer’s brain). Probably the unique thing about the Kudan SDK, and the one feature that gives it an edge over every other Augmented Reality SDK that I’m aware of is that it has very robust single-camera SLAM. Kudan supports Visual Simultaneous Localisation and Mapping (SLAM) tracking technology available for AR/VR, Robotic and Artificial Intelligence applications.

According to reviews and comparisons of efficiency, Kudan is the main rival of Vuforia and make augmented reality development very easy. Kudan supports marker or markerless tracking and location requirements also.

Supported platforms: Android, iOS, Unity Editor and Smart Glasses.

Official Website: www.kudan.eu

Features:

  • Simultaneous Localisation and Mapping (SLAM) tracking technology
  • 2D/3D Recognition in same application
  • flexible to work across mobile, HMD and advanced IoT, AI, Robotics applications.
  • Available with markerless and marker operation

Pricing:

License Type Development & basic Prod. AR Business AR Enterprise
 Price Unlimited Free (W-Mark)  £1000/yaer On Request
 2D image/3D recognition  Yes  Yes Yes
 SLAM (Markerless)  Yes  Yes  Yes
 Cloud Recognition   –
 OS Support iOS and Android iOS and Android iOS and Android

 

5. MaxST:

Maxst offers two different tools for image and environments recognition. The generation of a database is online via Tracking Manager/Map Manager. To scan 3D objects are used applications for Android and IOS (MAXST AR Trainer). In Unity Editor Maxst only works with the 32-bit version. The free version differs from paid only by a watermark. The official website has full and easy to understand documentation.

The SLAM (simultaneous localization and mapping) algorithm based on an RGB camera makes it possible to learn a 3D space and then to recognize and track it. As a newer SDK, Maxst AR focuses specifically on Natural Feature Tracking, and provides a fairly wide range of deployment platforms, including the Moverio smartglasses.

Supported platforms: Android, iOS, Unity Editor, Windows, and SmartGlasses.

Official Website: www.maxst.com

Features:

  • Pre-Training Target creation App
  • 2D image Recognition
  • Cloud Recognition
  • Smart Glass Solution
  • App Cloud Packaging

Pricing:

License Type 2D DEV 2D PRO 3D DEV 3D PRO
 Price Free (WaterMark)  $499 / year Free (WaterMark)  $499 / year
 2D Target / 3D Map limit  200 max Unlimited 10 max Unlimited
 MAXST Trainer app  Not Required Not Required  Android & iOS Android & iOS
 DEV IDE Support Unity & Android Studio Unity & Android Studio Unity & Android Studio Unity & Android Studio
 Cloud Recognition  –  –

 

6. ARmedia:

ARmedia is a cross-platform development environment, available both in free and paid versions, designed to create applications for iOS, Android, and  Windows. The SDK provides Tracking and Rendering Modules that are based on a variety of recognition and tracking methods, including 3D Object, Planar, Location and Motion Tracking. Thanks to a unique 3D model tracking approach, ARmedia SDK enabled applications are not just capable of recognizing planar images and locations but also complex 3D objects independently of their size and geometry.

The SDK offers 3D tracking and rendering capabilities with all that is required to develop powerful computer vision and Augmented Reality applications easily and modularly by means of flexible and low-cost subscription options.

armedia-sdk

 

Supported platforms: Android, iOS, Unity Editor.

Official Website: www.inglobetechnologies.com

Features:

The latest version of EasyAR (1.3.1) supports the image recognition only. Version 2.0 will include the following features:

  • 3D Object Recognition
  • 2D Image Recognition
  • Accurate Geo-location and Navigation
  • 3D Targets Manager helps you generate 3D targets
  • Integration with Unity3D and Authoring Environment

Pricing: 

License Type Devloper Entry (1 Month) Pro (6 Months) Business (1 Year)
 Price Free 1000 € 2500 €  3500 €
 2D Tracker Support Yes (Limited) Unlimited Unlimited Unlimited
 3D Tracker Support No Yes  Yes Yes
 3D Target Creation 30 200 500
 Application Keys  – Unlimited Unlimited Unlimited

 

7. EasyAR:

EasyAR SDK is developed by VisionStar Information Technology(Shanghai). The library is completely free. To start your work with EasyAR, you only need to register the account and to generate the plugin’s key of your Bundle ID. EasyAR is quite easy to integrate.

 

Supported platforms: Android, iOS, Unity Editor and UWP.

Official Website: www.easyar.com

Features:

The latest version of EasyAR (1.3.1) supports the image recognition only. Version 2.0 will include the following features:

  • 3D Object Recognition
  • Environment perception
  • Cloud Recognition
  • Smart Glass Solution
  • App Cloud Packaging

Pricing:  This product is free.

 

8. Catchoom:

Catchoom is an award-winning image and object recognition provider, powering CraftAR, the ultimate Augmented Reality (AR) toolbox. The Catchoom technology facilitates powerful image recognition as the starting point for new AR-driven experiences. Catchoom possesses an AR Creator tool, an AR SDK and a cloud-based image recognition powered AR feature.

It’s also worth noting that CraftAR has support for native iOS and Android SDKs, as well as Cordova and Unity plugin support for Augmented Reality. Catchoom’s Image Recognition API supports an even wider range with Javascript, Python, PHP and a Cordova Plugin in addition to native mobile SDKs.

Supported platforms: Android, iOS, Unity Editor and Cordova.

Official Website: www.catchoom.com

Features:

  • On-Device Image Recognition
  • Cloud Image Recognition
  • Planar Object Tracking
  • Javascript library support for Cloud-based recognition
  • Seamlessly integrate with your existing CMS
  • All-in-one SDK with cloud and on-device image recognition (3890€ One-time)

Pricing:

License Type Starter Plus Pro
 Price 99€/month 249€/month On Request
 On device 2D image recognition  Unlimited Unlimited Unlimited
 Cloud-based 2D Recognition 100 images 1000 images  Custom
 Collection support  1 Collection Unlimited collections Unlimited collections
 OS Support iOS and Android iOS and Android iOS and Android

 

9. Robocortex Rox AR SDK:

Robocortex is a French technology company specializing in Augmented Reality software and tools and providing services to industrial clients at industrial-size scale. Rox SDK focused on natural features and full object tracking, combining sensor fusion from the device IMU to improve tracking performance, the Rox AR SDK provides robust tracking and SLAM-like “driftless” mosaicking. 

The Robocortex solution is quite different from most of the other SDKs listed here. While the approach in most Augmented Reality SDKs relies on sparse feature detection (the breaking down of a potentially complex target into a much smaller number of recognizable features) Rox uses an approach they call “Efficient Second-order Approximation Method” or ESM which allows analysis of direct methods and dense data in real-time.

Rox is very robust SDK.If you need an AR solution that can predict the motion of targets as they move behind foreground obstructions, and as they drift far enough away that little of their original detail is available to the camera sensor, Rox is your solution.

With a free evaluation license (you’ll have to email them – visit their site here) and a 750€ professional production license, they’re one of the more accessible solutions and easy enough to try out.

RoboCortex SDK

Supported platforms: Android, iOS, Unity Editor.

Official Website: www.robocortex.com

Features:

  • Objects identification with reference images
  • Real-time 3D localization of a camera
  • Real-time objects localization in the image
  • Fusion between vision and inertial sensors
  • C# wrapper for integration with Unity3D

Pricing:

Customized Package as per the requirement: contact

 

One way or other, each of these frameworks is quite suitable for creating commercial augmented reality applications. The final choice of the development environment depends on the preferred marker recognition principle and the previous experience of the development team.


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Sanket Prabhu

About Sanket Prabhu

People find Sanket Prabhu to be an expert in the field of Augmented Reality, Unity 3D & AR/VR based mobile app development (iOS/Android). He is working as a researcher, developer & technology evangelist with focus on, real world 'Enterprise' AR/VR app development

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