A few months ago, Apple debuted ARKit, the tech giant’s first-ever attempt at an augmented reality platform. Its much-hyped launch opened the floodgates to glamorous AR apps for iOS that can build portals to alternate realms, fill rooms with 3D planets, and bring zombies to life, among hundreds of other exciting functions. Pretty impressive, right? Well, Google must’ve thought so too, because they were quick to follow up with their own iteration: ARCore. ARCore aims to bring AR to existing and future Android phones. The battle between Apple and Google over mobile-based AR is heated, and definitely keeping both iOS developers and Android developers on their toes. With the title of “best AR platform” hanging in the balance, let’s discuss the features that make each platform unique, how they compare to one another, and if there is a real winner at the end of the day.
There are three key features of these AR platforms: motion tracking, environmental understanding, and light estimation. These are the bare necessities to create a successful AR experience, so you’ll notice some patterns when going through the features of ARKit and ARCore.
Motion Tracking: ARKit can accurately track the device’s positioning in the real world using its Visual Inertial Odometer (VIO). The VIO combines the device’s camera tracking and motion sensor data, which records the real-time position of the device.
Environmental Understanding: With ARKit, iPhones and iPads can analyze a scene by way of the camera view, and determine where horizontal planes are in a room (like tables, chairs, and stairs).
Light Estimation: ARKit uses the iPhone or iPad’s camera sensor to gauge the total amount of light available in a scene, and apply the proper amount of light sources to establish continuity.
This can help users perceive virtual objects more accurately within a space.
In the wake of Google’s announcement of ARCore, many were asking the question: “Is ARCore the new Tango?” This is because technically, ARCore is not Google’s first foray into AR. In 2014 Google launched Tango, which is an AR hardware device, whereas ARCore is baked-in platform for mobile devices (so no, ARCore is not the new Tango). Since Google has already been a frontrunner in the AR sphere, what’s more in ARCore that could attract users?
Motion Tracking: Instead of using VIO like ARKit, ARCore tracks IMU (inertial measurement unit) data, as well as the features of the surrounding space to determine the position and orientation of the Android device being used.
Environmental Understanding: ARCore detects horizontal surfaces using similar technology as ARKit.
Light Estimation: ARCore is pretty on par with ARKit in this realm too. ARCore detects the ambient lighting of the space around the device which enhances the appearance of virtual visuals.
There are some other unique features of ARCore, however. One example is its “hit testing” feature. ARCore uses “hit testing” to track coordinates corresponding to the phone’s screen (indicated by a tap) and projects a ray into the camera’s field of view, returning any planes or feature points that the ray intersects. This allows users to more accurately interact with virtual objects in the environment. ARCore also showcases an object anchoring feature. This is a feature that allows users to define an object’s anchor, which ensures its ability to track the object’s displacement or movement.
How They Compare
To start, it goes without saying that ARKit will be restricted to iOS 11 devices and ARCore will be only serve Android 7.0 (Nougat) or higher. Considering that Android users outnumber iOS users worldwide, this presents a potential market advantage for ARCore. Another area where ARCore wins out over ARKit is in mapping: ARCore continually gathers and stores information about the real world that can be later be used for localization, while ARKit utilizes a system that only stores a limited amount of location data about the recent past. However, there are definitely some points that shine a favorable light on ARKit. While Google spent so much time on mobile VR projects in recent years, like Daydream and Cardboard, Apple focused on getting mobile AR into the mainstream. You’ll notice that even the announcement video for ARCore is on Google’s “VR” YouTube page. Apple’s “launch heard ‘round the world” strategy paid off big-time: the company commandeered the brand new space of mobile AR by beating Google to the punch, making themselves known as AR innovators (although they technically aren’t). While they’re more alike than different from a UX perspective, ARKit may win out over ARCore because of its sheer brand recognition and consumer value. In conclusion, ARKit and ARCore are essentially neck-and-neck. While ARKit has advantages in terms of hardware and consumer market value, ARCore inches ahead with mapping and worldwide accessibility. We’ll call it a draw for now, but the battle has certainly just begun.
Article by Emily Burton | Emily Burton is a content writer at Fueled. Fueled is a top app development firm that works with a range of startups and big brands to create compelling, successful, award-winning websites and mobile apps.