Getting the best out of AR experiences
Augmented reality is growing in popularity – both as a platform for consuming information and as a form of entertainment. We’ve noticed a steady uptake in AR experiences as the technology develops, and with the gradual rise in the capability of wearable AR tech, more and more people are wanting to put AR to good use. James Burrows, Technical Director at Immersive Studios, runs through a quick guide to making an AR game or experience..
Marker or markerless?
Firstly, you should decide whether you want your experience to use markers or not. This largely depends on the type of experience you’re creating. For instance, a game would be better without markers so the user can play it anywhere. But if you’re creating content that you only want to be discoverable in a certain place – for example at an exhibition or event – then markers are both useful and straightforward. Increasingly, object recognition is also becoming an option – where the AR reader recognises a physical object rather than a marker. This is a more complex option but it is effective.
Which SDK should I use?
Again, this depends on your usage. Both Apple and Android offer dedicated AR development platforms – ARKit and ARCore respectively – but we often use Vuforia, which offers a common API which can make use of both ARKit and ARCore. Plus, Vuforia also works with devices which don’t support ARKit or ARCore. It means we can create markerless experiences that work across the Apple/Android spectrum as well as use object recognition if we wish (this has only recently become available through ARKit). However, your best bet is to decide what devices you want to run the experience on and how you want the experience to be triggered, then choose the SDK which is most appropriate for that.
What about web AR?
This is something I’m sure we’ll see a lot more of in the future. Web AR means the end user doesn’t have to download a potentially bulky app to discover the experience – instead they can just visit a webpage, which will definitely fuel uptake in the use of the tech. However, at the moment web AR is still relatively basic in terms of functionality. There are some impressive examples, such as Marvel’s Spiderman AR, but I’d say it’s still in its infancy for anyone without hefty budgets to play around with!
How do I optimise content?
If you bear in mind that the majority of AR experiences are currently through a tablet or smartphone, it’s best to use low-poly models, simple shaders and keep draw calls low in your game engine (if you’re using one). This will help keep the overall app size down, as well as help ensure a smooth playback once the experience is triggered. It’s also worthwhile planning just how much content you want in your app for the same reasons. Be careful that what you’re planning won’t result in a huge app that most people can’t be bothered – or don’t have space – to download!
Any last pointers?
Make sure you’re prescriptive about what hardware and software is required to run your experience. For example, if you’re producing an experience or game that needs markerless or object tracking to work, how will you manage this on devices that don’t support this? It’s best to build in a fall-back option so your experience can be enjoyed by as many people as possible.