Augmented Reality is the powerhouse for the next set of magic tricks headed to our mobile devices. Augmented Reality combines real-world objects with Digital information. Heard about Pokemon Go? It was first showcased by Niantic at WWDC 2017 and was built on Apple’s augmented reality framework, ARKit. Following the widespread success of Pokemon Go, a large number of companies are eager to invest in AR technology. Unity is one of the dominant players in the industry when it comes to creating desktop, console and mobile games. Augmented Reality has been exciting game developers for quite some time now, and following this excitement Unity has released prominent tools for developers to experiment with AR Apps.
Bear in mind that Unity is not designed exclusively for Augmented Reality and so developers can access additional functionality by importing extensions. These extensions also provide pre-designed game components such as characters or game props.
Let us briefly look at 3 prominent tools or extensions for Augmented Reality development provided by Unity:
Unity ARKit plugin
The Unity ARKit plugin uses the functionality of the ARKit SDK within Unity projects. As on September 2017, this plugin is also extended for iOS apps as iOS ARKit plugin. The ARKit plugin provides Unity developers with access to features such as motion tracking, vertical and horizontal plane finding, live video rendering, hit-testing, raw point cloud data, ambient light estimation, and more for their AR projects. This plugin also provides easy integration of AR features in existing Unity projects.
A new tool, the Unity ARKit Remote speeds up iteration by allowing developers to make real-time changes to the scene and debug scripts in the Unity Editor.
The latest update to iOS ARKit is version 1.5 which provides developers with the more tools to power more immersive AR experiences.
Google ARCore for Unity provides mobile AR experiences for Android, without the need for additional hardware. The latest major version ARCore 1.0 enables AR applications to track a phone’s motion in the real world, detect planes in the environment, and understand lighting in the camera scene.
ARCore 1.0 introduces featured oriented points which help in the placement of anchors on textured surfaces. These feature points enhance the environmental understanding of the scene. So ARCore is not just limited to horizontal and vertical planes like ARKit, but can create AR Apps on any surface.
ARCore 1.0 is supported by the Android Emulator in Android Studio 3.1 Beta and is available for use on multiple supported Android devices.
Vuforia integration with Unity
Vuforia allows developers to build cross-platform AR apps directly from the Unity editor. It provides Augmented Reality support for Android, iOS, and UWP devices, through a single API. It attaches digital content to different types of objects and environments using Model Targets and Ground Plane, across a broad range of devices and operating systems.
Ground Plane attaches digital content to horizontal surfaces. Model Targets provides Object Recognition capabilities. Other targets include Image (to put AR content on flat objects) and Cloud (manage large collections of Image Targets from your own CMS).
Vuforia also includes Device Tracking capability which provides an inside-out device tracker for rotational head and hand tracking. It also provides APIs to create immersive experiences that transition between AR and VR.
You can browse through various AR projects from the Unity community to help you get started with your next big AR idea as well as to choose the toolkit best suited for you.