Aug 10, 2017 | By Benedict

Tech giant Apple is preparing for the public release of its ARKit augmented reality SDK in the Fall, and staff at DottyAR have put a beta version of the tool to the test, lining it up against Vuforia, an established AR SDK.

For many average tech consumers, it all started with Pokémon Go. Although hardly the most consequential of apps, the monster-hunting game was the surprise smartphone sensation of 2016. Everybody was talking about it, virtually everyone was playing it, and seemingly overnight we had our first full-on look at augmented reality for the masses.

The public interest in Pokémon Go has understandably dwindled since its near-impossibly successfully honeymoon period, but the game well and truly laid the foundations for smartphone AR.

Drain batteries though it did, Pokémon Go (and Snapchat, of course) proved that AR can work effectively on average consumer tech, and opened the floodgates for a slew of new AR applications like Amikasa, Quiver, WallaMe, and Ink Hunter.

Before AR becomes fully dominant, however, the large army of would-be AR developers needs to have the right tools in place. With the right AR SDK, developers will be able to make the next Pokémon Go without having to re-write the ground rules of augmented reality.

Thankfully, there are already a large number of options out there, but that number is soon to increase by a very significant one.

Yes, existing AR SDKs like Vuforia, ARToolkit, and ARMedia will soon be joined by a new augmented reality heavyweight: ARKit, made by none other than tech giant Apple. Due for public release around September, ARKit is already being tested out by beta users, and early whisperings suggest the AR tool could blow its competition out of the water.

Wanting to put those rumors to rest, staff at DottyAR—a popular AR viewer that can be embedded into webpages—have tested the beta version of Apple’s ARKit against existing SDK Vuforia, made by Qualcomm but currently owned by software company PTC.

Although it’s early days for ARKit, DottyAR’s review pours buckets of praise on the soon-to-be-released iPhone-friendly AR tool.

“For the testing we used the DottyAR app side by side using various 3D models in live collaboration,” explains DottyAR’s Ajay Shah. “We were collaborating with others around the globe on the objects that were placed in vision to see how they appeared for both users. Our main interest was to see if the user experience was significantly different with ARKit over the Vuforia to justify its entrance into the market.”

Although Shah and co eventually found plenty of justification for ARKit’s existence, let’s start with where Vuforia had the edge.

First and foremost, Apple’s ARKit has one major drawback: it’s only compatible with Apple devices. Already, that rules out its use on Android and Windows devices, meaning the majority of users from around the world will have to use SDKs like Vuforia unless they decide to switch their hardware allegiance to Apple.

Unfortunately for Vuforia, that’s about as bad as things get for ARKit, because DottyAR says it wins “straight out of the box” in terms of performance.

“The iPhone’s 6s and higher quickly find surfaces within the viewable space and allow users to lock 3D models (Augmented Objects) to these surfaces,” Shah reports. “The objects 'glue' themselves to the desired area in ARKit perfectly without the glitter on a well-defined plane. Vuforia has yet to release anything similar.”

The testing crew think this superior surface-finding is due to superior triangulation and SLAM algorithms in the Apple SDK.

Another area of the two SDKs that DottyAR wanted to compare side by side was lighting and realism. In this department, Apple’s ARKit won out again, with its environment matching “so impressive that it looks like the object is in it's natural state, i.e. it's actually in front of you.”

This smooth environment adaptation is bolstered by cool features like face tracking and detection and integration with Siri.

Performance aside, another huge advantage for the Apple SDK is its cost, which is…nothing. Vuforia requires a paid license, while ARKit does not.

Ultimately, DottyAR is throwing its weight firmly and absolutely behind the Apple AR tool, but does offer a few reasons for caution.

“This article sounds extremely bullish and optimistic for ARKit, and it is,” Shah says. “But we also need to remember that Android still consumes the majority of the worlds smart devices. So while Apple dominates the USA market share, it pales in comparison worldwide. So this is by no means the end of Vuforia or others including Google, which is also vested in AR.”

The beta version of ARKit, described by Apple as “a new framework that allows you to easily create unparalleled augmented reality experiences for iPhone and iPad,” is being bundled with iOS 11.

A stable release of the iOS 11 operating system is expected in the third quarter of 2017.



Posted in 3D Software



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