10 May 2018

WebAR: Is it the future of augmented reality?

Posted By Matt Murphy
ArCore ArKit augmented reality WebAR

The Future Of Augmented Reality

Augmented reality is a technology moving at a ever faster rate. Last year with the introduction of Apple's AR Kit and Google's AR Core, we saw a huge rise in the amount of apps that use augmented reality, and today it's engaging more people than ever. With Simultaneous Localisation And Mapping (SLAM) available to more developers than ever before, there's been a huge influx in the amount of apps using this technology, with apps like Pokemon Go and Ikea's Place app some of only a very small handful to use SLAM based augmented reality before the release of Apple's and Google's SDK's. These SDK's offer fantastic tracking so it's no surprise to see such a huge adoption so quickly.

It's also ever improving, with Apple due to launch iOS 12 in September with AR Kit 2, adding even more functionality such as eye tracking and multiplayer augmented reality, which will likely also be a massive hit. The introduction of eye tracking, on compatible devices, is very intriguing and it has only fueled rumors of Apple releasing their own augmented reality wearable, like a HoloLens or Magic Leap headset.

But what of the future of augmented reality? The past 12 months has seen interest surge in web based augmented reality.
Why is web based augmented reality seeing so much interest? There is one significant advantage over other types of augmented reality and that is you don't need to download an app to run a web based augmented reality experience - you can just do it right in your web browser on your phone. This type of experience has existed for some time, but largely the results both visually, and in terms of tracking just could not compare to app based augmented reality.

But this industry moves quickly and change is certainly coming. Up until recently web based augmented reality has largely been target based, so lost out especially with the emergence of Google's Ar Core and Apple's Ar Kit with their much more flexible SLAM based tracking. Web based 3D rendering has improved significantly, with browser vendors working with new standards to deliver the best experiences. Performance of web based augmented reality also used to be largely disappointing, with very low frame rates even on powerful devices.

Google have invested a lot of time in web based augmented reality. They have two interesting GitHub repo's - each allowing ArCore or ArKit to run natively inside a web browser. That's very significant, and could open up huge opportunities for many business. For example, take someone like Argos or AO. In the early days of the internet all their products were listed, usually with a few images. Then, as broadband appeared and became more popular, they started to add videos. They moved on to 360 degree visualizations, often in the form of a pre-rendered interactive experience. And soon, you will able to choose a product online, and then using web based augmented reality with SLAM tracking - you'll be able to see exactly how it would look in your own home. All without needing to download an app.

Whilst it's still largely experimental and not yet properly available in production builds of web browsers, it's certainly in the pipeline. And here at Peel Interactive we have been taking notice of the trend to ensure our workflow is ready and adaptable to be deployed on the latest platforms.