Capabilities and Limitations of Apple ARKit and Google ARCore

Anastasia Morozova
Anastasia Morozova
Chief Operating Officer

Augmented reality along with mobile apps built with this technology are among the main trends of the outgoing year. Two giant vendors, offer programmers advanced platforms for building such AR applications and we will compare these solutions.

IKEA Place for virtual placing furniture inside of real houses; Edmunds for checking whether your new car will fit your garage; and Thomas and Friends, an augmented reality (AR) game featured in the App Store – modern smartphone users are likely to be familiar with these augmented reality mobile applications.

However, few people know that they all are based on ARKit, a set of software development tools that allow app creators to make augmented reality applications for the iOS operating system.

Apple ARKit and Google ARCore

For ARCore, on the other hand, there are fewer AR apps because it’s a bit younger.

The first ARCore-based application allowed users to see virtual atom models in a real-world space. In August, for presentation purposes, Google showed an augmented reality app called Oz. It was a simple ARCore-based application that could virtually place various animated characters into the physical world using a smartphone-based camera.

After abandoning the Tango platform, ARCore became a Google’s answer to ARKit. In this article, we will consider the main benefits and limitations of each solution for the creation of augmented reality applications.

AR apps: use cases

There are numerous use cases for augmented reality apps, but we will cover the top five of them to show you a real potential of the AR technology.

Virtual shopping

Various retailers with either offline or online stores utilize augmented reality to form a unique shopping AR experience.

Harley-Davidson built an augmented reality application for iPad that allows users to virtually change different bike design options to create their own exterior.

E-commerce retailers can use augmented reality for building three-dimensional shops that would virtually replicate the shopping experience of offline stores.

Letting users try a product in augmented reality before purchasing increases satisfaction as well as both brand loyalty and awareness.

Industrial equipment fixing

The national water company in Israel facilitates their repair services by utilizing AR smart glasses along with a specific mobile platform. Their AR solution allows engineers to get real-time expert help on a remote basis or from professionals located in any country.

Augmented reality enables remote specialists to virtually place messages, graphs, etc. onto the engineer’s view. AR smart glasses help technical experts perform necessary fixes under the expert’s assistance.

The augmented reality technology in the industrial field can increase the level of safety, facilitate equipment fixing while increasing its quality, as well as eliminate the pressure from engineers who are unable to accomplish some specific technical tasks.

Augmented reality can help manufacturers empower their mobile workforce and link ordinary workers to particular specialists all over the world.

Design and Modeling

The Watermark Products company, one of the leading suppliers of in-flight products in the airline sector, uses an augmented reality solution to visualize item mockups and scale them using tablets.

Instead of creating expensive prototypes, the company provides their customers with an augmented reality tool that forms a side-by-side visual comparison of new and old items. Such an approach allows customers to quickly notice advantages of offered new products.

Augmented reality can be very helpful in the design and development in early stages. It can provide technical specialists with a precise understanding of product functionality.

Education and Training

Augmented reality can also be used for education. Thus, within a partnership of two certain health organizations, medical students will study using a 3D holographic anatomy software.

This solution will allow students to learn the inner part of a human body using a Microsoft HoloLens wearer. The augmented reality software will enable students to spend less than in typical cadaveric laboratories.

Augmented Reality arkit

Using augmented reality to educate students or employees provides a deep, multi-sensory, and easy-to-remember experience – that is much more effective than other traditional learning methods, such as textbooks or lectures.

With augmented reality, both specialists and students will efficiently improve their knowledge and faster become real experts in their industry.

Also check out: Top Real World Examples of Using Virtual Reality in Medicine

Car Maintenance and Repair

In 2015, Hyundai, a worldwide known auto manufacturer implemented AR-based owner’s manuals. Using a portable device, customers can get the necessary information about repair techniques and car features in augmented reality.

Their AR application also contains helpful videos and 3D overlay images appearing once a customer scans any area of their car (e.g., an engine bay) and numerous informational guides.

See also: How Augmented Reality Improves the Efficiency of Corporate Training

ARKit and ARCore basic value propositions comparison

In this paragraph, we will consider the primary capabilities of both augmented reality platforms.

ARCore

  • Motion Tracking: To adjust a virtual image to real objects, the system uses motion tracking. It monitors the inertial measurement unit (IMU) data and the surrounding points to determine the orientation and position of a device.
  • Environmental Understanding: To determine horizontal surfaces and their sizes, the platform provides the environmental understanding. It can detect horizontal surfaces using its unique features.
  • Light Estimation: To accurately display shadows and reflections, it uses its light estimation capabilities. ARCore can identify the smartphone lighting ambiance as well as enhance the appearance by increasing the visual accurate in real-time.
  • User Interaction: To allow users to interact with real objects through a camera, the platform uses its user interaction feature. In the smartphone camera, ARCore can detect the intersection of light rays with its ‘hit-testing’ feature.
  • Anchoring Objects: To virtually place an object in a proper way, ARCore determines an anchor that facilitates object disposition tracking with the time passing by.

ARCore is available for Unreal, Unity, and Android Studio. It supports devices based on Android 7.0 Nougat, such as Samsung Galaxy S8 Google Pixel, and Pixel XL.

ARKit

  • Position tracking: To accurately track the smartphone position in the environment, the platform associates with motion sensor data and camera tracking through a smartphone-based visual inertial odometer (VIO) to record a device position. Furthermore, ARKit requires no tracking cards.
  • Lightning perception and landscape understanding: Due to this advanced feature, ARKit can detect various surfaces, such as walls, tables, and so on, and determine their length.
  • Rendering: To be able to virtually place objects, the platform uses its rendering capabilities. ARKit can integrate with various engines and frameworks to render objects in mobile applications.

ARCore is available for  Unreal, Unity, SceneKit, and SpriteKit. It’s supported by Apple devices on a base of iOS 11.

arkit technology

ARKit and ARCore technology capabilities

Let’s consider and compare the technology capabilities of ARCore and ARKit.

Calibration

Augmented reality platforms use calibration to show as accurate object position as possible at every point of time. Calibration is the comparison of determined values with predefined necessary measurements.

Both AR platforms can accurately calibrate the disposition of virtual in the real surroundings. Any difference is hardly visible.

Augmented reality developers continuously improve the technology to make virtual objects a part of the real environment and increase the capabilities of their software development kits (SDKs).

ARKit Apple

Lighting

Both platforms, ARKit and ARCore, can estimate light in real time. Therefore, developers can immediately calibrate the simulated lighting to ensure it matches the light in the actual world surroundings.

Both AR platforms offer a simple estimate of the essential lighting. The estimate doesn’t take into account what the light source is and how smooth the whole lightning is: natural light or spotlights.

However, each platform has a bit different approach. When it comes to ARKit, developers get color temperature and intensity, while ARCore offers a shader through the Unity API or a value of the pixel intensity through Android Studio API.

Despite the difference in approaches, ARCore and ARKit provide nearly equal results. In May of 2017, during the Google I/O ’17 event they showed how far their improvements had stepped.

In the video below, you can watch how Google AR can adjust virtual reflections and shadows to real light. It adds a new level to what we usually experience while using augmented reality apps. Such innovations make users feel as if virtual objects are real.

Simultaneous localization and mapping

Simultaneous localization and mapping (SLAM) is an aspect where Google AR platform has an advantage over ARKit.

When a user launches an AR mobile app based on any of these two AR platforms, the tracker checks whether there is a map available or creates a new map using stereo calculation. As long a user moves around, new objects appear in the field of view and new 3D points appear on the map while making a map larger.

It is worth noting that ARCore maintains larger maps, which makes the system more reliable. Therefore, if the user’s device loses tracking, ARCore will better recover a map.

ARCore vs ARKit: Hardware and Software Requirements

In fact, there are few significant differences between these two platforms. The same as ARKit, ARCore works with Java/OpenGL and other engines and frameworks mentioned above.

Also, unlike Tango, ARCore will support many existing devices eliminating the need for any specific hardware, e.g. a specialized camera or sensor.

When it comes to software, both AR platforms have their limitations. ARKit is only compatible with iPads or iPhones on a base of iOS 11 and higher. ARCore, on the other hand, will run on portable devices on a base of Android 7.0 Nougat and higher.

If you are into an augmented reality application development, you might also like our article How Much Does an Augmented Reality App Cost in 2018?

Summary

ARCore ARKit

Since the number of Android users are much higher than iOS users, ARCore will increase the number of its users and exceed the ARKit installation base in 2.5 years, according to ARtillry Intelligence.

This figure will be more than 2 billion units worldwide. In particular, there will be about 72 million Android devices by the end of 2017 and nearly 3.6 billion by 2020.

However, Apple has an obvious benefit when it comes to the operating system fragmentation since this company has a unified product line.

Regardless the total number of iOS devices lower than Google-based ones, many Apple devices run recent iOS versions.

On the other hand, the Android device market is significantly fragmented into numerous devices which rarely use the latest operating system which can lead to some compatibility issues.

One way or another, both AR platforms have similar capabilities and only developers will see their differences.

For ordinary users, everything will remain in its place depending only on the chosen device and its operating system.

Read more about Augmented Reality:

Get our fresh tech stories delivered to your inbox!