11 Feb 2021

Augmented reality on mobile

Adoption rates, mobile frameworks, and practical use

Augmented reality, or AR, is the technology that puts virtual objects on top of the real world image; hence the name.

Its position is rather ambiguous nowadays: it isn't widely adopted and requires powerful processors to work. Also, numerous efforts are devoted to implementing the technology into wearables: helmets, glasses, and contact lenses. Despite them, most people still use AR on smartphones and tablets thanks to better performance, battery life and well, because people always have their smartphones at hand anyway.

Unfortunately or not, we aren't in this phase of AR development yet.

Currently, AR is mostly used in the retail, education, and game development industries. It's a valuable tool for enhancing interactivity and displaying products from multiple perspectives. For example, IKEA Place shows you how their furniture would look in your room, SketchAR helps you learn to draw, and Pokemon GO — I guess, everyone knows about Pokemon GO. It's the most renowned app that uses AR as the main feature, after all.

Depending on the type of trigger, AR can be marker-based, markerless, and location-based. In this article, we'll explore markerless AR, which can function without an image, QR code, or location data.


To implement AR functionality in apps, developers typically use either native ARKit and ARCore or third-party frameworks like Vuforia.

ARKit, developed by Apple, is at the forefront of the AR industry and constantly releases new features to enhance the AR experience. For example, the latest iPad Pro even boasts a LiDAR scanner, previously only seen in autonomous vehicles. And there are rumours that Apple plans to unveil their own AR glasses soon; a project that Google failed to accomplish.

Some of the strengths of ARKit include stable tracking, peer-to-peer multiplayer, and realistic reflections. Also, ARKit's People Occlusion feature is a game-changer, allowing virtual objects to be hidden behind real people for a more natural and lifelike experience. ARKit can even detect plain surfaces like walls or tables — with varying reliability.

Of course, it does have a few limitations. ARKit is only available on iOS devices with A9 or later processors (A12 and A13 for ARKit 3.5). Additionally, it has difficulties with creating lighting and shadows, which can impact the realism of the augmented reality experience. ARKit can't occlude objects as effectively as it does with people. Like many AR SDKs, ARKit often struggles to recognize enamelled surfaces, which can be frustrating for users trying to place virtual objects in the real world. Most ARKit issues come from the decision to rely just on the device's processing power to handle the augmented reality experience.

On the other hand, ARCore, developed by Google, uses cloud services to improve mapping, lighting, occlusion, and relocation. However, these features require a compatible device from this list and a stable internet connection to function properly. While ARCore offers some advantages over ARKit, it can be less stable in terms of tracking and may require calibration on certain Android devices. With ARCore SDK for Unity, you can use this engine to create apps for both Android and iOS.

Vuforia is a popular AR development framework that supports a wide range of devices, including iOS, Android, and Universal Windows Platform. It was developed in 2010 and played a key role in the creation of ARKit and ARCore by Apple and Google. According to AppFigures, Vuforia remains the most widely used SDK for AR apps. It offers a range of features and tools for building immersive AR experiences and has a strong track record of success in the industry.

In addition to its wide range of device support, Vuforia also offers the flexibility to use either its own technologies and engine or those of ARKit and ARCore. This means that even older devices that are not supported by native SDKs, as well as some AR smart glasses like HoloLens and MagicLeap, can utilize Vuforia. While Vuforia does offer some unique features on top of the core capabilities shared by native SDKs, and has a version baked right into Unity, it's a paid solution and doesn't have the same level of control over device hardware as Apple and Google.

It's worth noting that all AR solutions, including ARKit, ARCore, and Vuforia, can be heavy on device battery usage. This is because markerless AR relies on multiple components, including the camera, image recognition, orientation sensors, and direction sensors, all of which consume power. As a result, it is important for developers to consider the impact of their AR projects on device battery life and take steps to optimize performance where possible.

USE CASES for ar

The list of benefits how AR, and specifically, AR glasses, can improve the process of product selection is practically endless. Just consider the potential of an app that can help you breeze through a supermarket shopping trip by identifying your favourite products on the shelves, comparing prices and ingredients, and even alerting you to any dietary or allergy concerns. Or think about the convenience of being able to easily compare how a car looks in different colors at a dealership.

Online shopping could also become much easier and more efficient with the further development of AR, particularly in terms of body tracking. Currently, most AR frameworks are only able to recognize faces, which limits the effectiveness of virtual try-on features. However, companies such as NYX Cosmetics and L'Oreal Paris are already using virtual try-on technology to showcase their makeup products. While there is currently no easy way to see how clothes would look on you using AR, the technology is definitely making progress in this area. In the future, it is likely that we will see more advanced body tracking capabilities in AR, which could greatly improve the online shopping experience by allowing customers to virtually try on clothes and other apparel.

Instagram and Snapchat are already using AR in a variety of ways. They have even developed their own frameworks, Spark AR and Lens Studio, to allow users to add filters, masks, and 3D objects to photos and videos.

It's highly likely that AR will be used in ads as well. For example, we can expect ads allowing users to virtually try on a product. Using AR in ads allows users to get a better sense of how a product will look on them. It can also serve as a powerful marketing tool for influencers.

Overall, the use of AR in social media and advertising is likely to continue to grow, and it has the potential to greatly enhance the shopping experience for consumers.

Google Maps introduced Live View in 2020. It's an AR mode that combines a traditional map with AR arrows to guide users to their destination. While this feature may be useful when driving or using public transportation, it doesn't seem practical for walking. But Live View does offer a glimpse into the potential of AR glasses to help us navigate our surroundings in the future.

IKEA manuals are known for being clear and easy to understand, but the use of AR can take this a step further by showing users exactly where and how to assemble a product. Similarly, apps explaining the various indicators on a car dashboard can make it easier for drivers to understand their vehicle and feel more confident behind the wheel. Again, a smartphone isn't the ideal platform for such features. However, they demonstrate how AR can be used to augment visual information and make it easier for customers and workers to learn and understand new concepts.

The potential uses for AR are almost endless, as it can be applied to many different fields that rely on our ability to see. While the actual implementation of AR may differ from the futuristic representations seen in movies and television, it has the potential to be a serious competitor to screens as a way to interact with and view digital content. AR has the potential to improve and enhance many aspects of our daily lives.

Blog author photo
Diana Sadykova

Head of Marketing at Quality Wolves

I love Belgian beer, future pop, and writing about IT products.