Augmented Reality SDK Comparison: Theoretical Vs Actual

AR SDK Expectation (On paper) Vs Reality (Actual Implementation)

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. 

Tracking and recognition are two of the most fundamental requirements for every AR software package. If AR software is prone to losing the tracking of the reference image, be it due to adverse lighting conditions, distance from the image, movement or the inability to process a blurred camera image, oftentimes it breaks the experience for the end user.

  • The speed of recognition and robustness can vary between AR SDKs, especially with reference images that are considered ‘weak’ i.e. not many feature points.
  • There are many misconceptions about the AR Software provider market that even seasoned professionals can be led into believing.
  • For example, Developer A under the impression that ‘X’ SDK’s tracking was the best in the world – until he actually tried other available SDKs. 


Two principles of augmented reality applications operation

There are two basic principles of the augmented reality applications work: using markers and using information obtained through GPS and other sensors built into the user’s device. 

1. Use of markers: The data received via a video camera built into the user personal device is compared to the markers predefined in the application. In the case of coincidence, the augmented reality application performs a certain algorithm (for example, it provides the user with the characteristics of the goods seen in the store or draws a new graphic image over the object).

2. Data obtained by the means of GPS, gyroscopes, accelerometers, etc.: Data about the object, received from the inbuilt sensors is processed, resulting in the user obtaining the useful information directly on the screen of their personal device.


Most developers exploring the Augmented Reality space become fixated on the first SDK they find

Mostly developers stick to first AR SDK which he found best and more suitable to satisfy his requirements. And that’s an easy thing to do, because the first one most people run across will usually be one of the big ones. There was Metaio, which was spectacular – I don’t think any other single solution comes close to its feature set, so it was quite an upset when Apple purchased it and took it dark last year.  A lot of people flocked to Vuforia, then, and others, but many SDKs for Augmented Reality, both commercial and open source, remain available and aren’t as widely known.



Below is the Augmented Reality SDK Comparison of frameworks’ basic characteristics


  • A: Android
  • i: iOS
  • G: Glassware/ Smart Glasses
  • U: Universal widows platform
  • Dev: Development Licence (free)
  • m: Meters
  • Recog. : Recognition
  • SLAM: Simultaneous Localisation and Mapping
Parameter (Capability) Vuforia ARToolkit Wikitude Kudan MaxSt AR-Media EasyAR
Pricing / License  Paid + Dev  OpenSource  Paid+Dev(L) Paid+Dev  Paid+Dev(L)  Paid+Dev(L)  Free
Supported Platforms (Deployment)  A, i, U, G, W  A, i, G, W  A, i, G, W A, i, G   A, i, G  A, i, G  A, i, G
Unity3D Plugin  Yes√  Yes√  Yes√  Yes√  Yes√  Yes√  Yes√
2D ImageTarget Recognition  Yes√(robust)  Yes√ (NFT)  Yes√  Yes√  Yes√  Yes√  Yes√
3D ObjectTarget Recognition  Yes (Beta)  No ×  Yes (Beta)  No ×  Yes(2Dbased)  Yes (CAD)  No ×
Max. Distance allow to Recog. Marker  1.5 – 3 m  1.5 – 2 m  1.5 – 2 m  1.5 – 2.5 m   1.5 – 1.8 m  1.5 – 2 m  –
Recog. Stability of Immovable Marker  90 %  50 %  65 %  70 %  75 %  70 %  65 %
Recog. Stability of Movable Marker  65 %  30 %  45 %  55 %  50 %  50 %  40 %
Min. angle support for Recognition  35º  10º   20º   30º   35º   25º   20º
Min. visibility (Overlapped marker)  40 %  40 %  60 %  50 %  60 %  60 %  60 %
 Geo-Location  No ×  No ×  Yes√  Yes√  No ×  No ×  No ×
 Cloud Recognition  Yes√  No ×  Yes√ (Beta)    No ×  No ×  No ×
 SLAM Support  Yes√  No ×  Yes√  Yes√  No ×  No ×  No ×
 Rating by ARReverie (Pract Observ)  8/10  6/10  5/10  6/10  6/10  6/10  6/10

Broad Hint

If what you’re looking for is professionalism, good support, and scale, you’ll definitely need to check out Vuforia. If you’re not put off by their (pretty steep, especially for smaller companies) prices, you’re probably not going to find a better framework right now.

If all you need is basic functionality, you might do fine with ARToolkit. It allows you to be pretty flexible and it’s a fully open-source project.


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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