Augmented reality (AR) is likely the most significant emerging technology for business applications, even more so than virtual reality (VR). According to Wikipedia, augmented reality is “a technology that superimposes a computer-generated image on a user’s view of the real world, thus providing a composite view.” AR does not block out the real world and the task at hand, and that is the reason for the practicality of mobile augmented reality: its most important use cases for business and learning are in the performance aid or guidance category.
There are many significant mobile AR business and learning applications—from medical training to field service to retail—for technicians, office occupations, and consumers. Most people already own the target platform: a smartphone or smart device, running either iOS or Android. No helmet is required, it’s all hand-held.
According to a Guild survey conducted in March of 2019, creating augmented reality experiences for mobile devices will be a key activity in 2019 and 2020.
Meeting the challenge of mobile AR development
Development of mobile AR applications is simple but requires specific skills, knowledge, and precision. It involves three or four software tools, depending on whether your target devices are iOS, Android, or both. This article provides basic information about the development process, and offers a recommendation on how to obtain the specific knowledge and skills.
By downloading the software resources, experimenting after reading their FAQ files, and getting help from user communities, you may be able to prototype an initial mobile AR app. But that depends on your level of experience in software and application development. Some may be timid about app development or concerned about needing to develop for both iOS and Android.
To get new designers and developers around that, The eLearning Guild is offering a hands-on workshop presented by Jeff Batt, an expert developer with AR app creation experience, at the 2019 Realities360 Conference & Expo. The workshop, “BYOD: Creating Mobile Augmented Reality Experiences with Unity,” will walk you through development of mobile AR apps for iPhones, iPads, and Android devices. Conference registration is required in order to register for the workshop.
The mobile AR development process
Unity is a game-changer for creating immersive AR experiences for Android and iOS devices, but Unity itself does not allow AR development. Unity’s strengths are in its extensibility and in creating shapes and objects for immersive environments, and it supports creators who are not programmers.
Because Unity does not support direct development of AR, the development process for mobile devices uses Vuforia to attach digital content to physical and virtual objects, and either ARKit 2 or ARCore (depending on your target devices) to publish your content to portable devices.
There are five basic steps in the process:
- Download and install the necessary software to the appropriate development platform (Windows PC or Mac).
- Using Unity (and other appropriate software), create media, shapes, and objects needed for the AR experience you intend to make.
- Using Vuforia, attach digital content to the physical and virtual objects.
- Using ARKit2 or ARCore, publish and test your AR application.
- Deploy your AR app to the appropriate app store for download by users.
Jeff’s workshop will support development of mobile AR for both iOS and Android devices, enabling you to reach millions of users with devices they already have. You will receive resources and sample files that you can use long after the one-day session is over.
In this workshop, you will learn:
- Unity basics
- Code snippets that can be used for both ARKit and ARCore
- How to create shapes and objects within Unity
- How to import media and 3-D objects from other tools
- How to trigger events when you interact with AR objects
- Steps you would take to deploy your app to the app store
Preparing for the workshop
Complete these steps before arriving at the workshop.
First, register for Realities360 Conference & Expo 2019 and then for the specific workshop P04: “BYOD: Creating Mobile Augmented Reality Experiences with Unity.” Note the discounts available to Guild members. You can receive an early Conference registration discount of $100 by registering on or before May 10, 2019.
Download and install the necessary software onto the laptop you will bring to the workshop. These are long downloads and you most likely will not be able to complete them and the installation relying on hotel Wi-Fi.
- Download and install the free Unity Personal, if you are eligible to do so. If you are not eligible, be sure you have downloaded your licensed version of Unity onto the laptop you will bring to the workshop. The Unity site linked above makes the conditions for eligibility clear.
- Vuforia Studio (30-day free trial: download after June 20, 2019 to allow for the 30 day trial!)
Jeff will provide two more software installations from a thumb drive at the workshop: ARKit 2 for iOS device applications, and/or ARCore for Android device applications.
You need the following hardware to participate in the workshop:
- Windows PC and mouse if developing for Android (will not work for developing iOS AR)
- Mac computer running current Mac OS if developing for either iOS or Android (an iPad does not meet this requirement) and a mouse
- Android device and/or iOS device (to test your app)
Your PC or Mac must be able to accept the ARKit and/or ARCore packages from a thumb drive.
Bring whatever charger, brick, or other power supply you need for your PC or Mac. While The Guild will make every reasonable effort to ensure that power is available to all workshop participants, it might be wise to pack an extension cord “just in case.” You will also need to have whatever connection cable is required to download your completed AR app to your target device.
Looking forward to seeing you at Realities360 Conference & Expo in San Jose!