Pokemon Go. The dancing Hot Dog. Google Glass. Red markings in football games that make offside positions easier to spot. These are all examples of AR. Pokemon Go also offers good reference points for creating 3D configurators.

AR is not new. For example, we’ve been using face enlargement in snapchat for years. But until 2017, the engineers and designers who create AR experiences acted behind a closed curtain. Last year, the world’s tech giants – Facebook, Apple, Google, Amazon and now Snapchat – threw the curtain dramatically aside and announced that almost anyone can create an AR experience.

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Here’s the compromise: What we gain in developer-friendliness (native SDKs, integration with existing workflows) and performance enhancements (load times, battery efficiency, render quality, integration with native apps), we lose in universality – of course each company wants to stay in its own ecosystem.

In short, new AR platforms from today’s technology giants aim to reduce technical issues so you can focus on amazing experiences…but you also want to create more apps for their respective mobile ecosystems.

Popular AR apps.

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Almost everyone has AR. But we still don’t understand it.

The numbers are dizzying. At the time of writing, more than half a billion mobile devices can take advantage of this new native technology. Stack it on the 900 million daily active users of Facebook‘s mobile app and suddenly it feels ubiquitous.

Yet, for example, less than a third of Americans know AR. Cat ears and facial changes caused by augmented reality lose their attraction after only a few seconds. Devices and operating systems are slowly being updated to incorporate AR functions, what real benefits can we expect? As it turns out, it’s a lot.

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Introduction to any (large) AR development platform.

First, it’s important to understand what’s going on under the hood. Like browsers, game consoles and almost every modern consumer technology, competing platforms with differentiated differences influence the future of the product.

If you are already familiar with AR development, we encourage you to read more in our blog about AR. Learn more about the real differences in functionality, features, development processes and marketing tactics between Apple, Google, Facebook, Snap and Amazon. It’s a borderline overkill.

Apple ARKit & Google ARCore.

Basically, both Apple’s ARKit and Google’s ARCore are designed to help developers/manufacturers/brands create AR features for their existing (and future) mobile apps. More specifically, Apple and Google are encouraging the use of reversing cameras and layer recognition to place 3D objects in real, physical space. For example, you can try different vehicle colors (ARKit), find your friends (ARKit), or learn how to operate a complicated espresso machine (ARCore).

It’s basically the same, except for 3 very nuanced differences: Google plans to integrate and search heavily in Google Lens to make AR more informative/contextual, with ARCore you can experience 5 different development environments (only one compared to ARKit). Both companies market unique as well as inconsistent OS-integrated AR functionalities (Animojis for Apple, AR Stickers for Google).

Snapchat Lens Studio.

Unlike what you’d expect, Snapchat Lens Studio isn’t a place to create facial enlargements. You can only create “World Lenses” (i.e. digital objects around you such as the dancing hot dog, cat ears or anime eyes for your face). It’s similar to Google and Apple. In addition, they are worlds apart. Snapchat Lens Studio is a desktop application with a graphical user interface (and not in a traditional “coding environment”).

The other big difference: Snapcodes. These are generated QR codes that allow developers to instantly share their AR experiences with friends and family. Imagine a small business placing a snapcode in front of its store or there’s a snapcode on the wall at a friend’s birthday party – just scan the code into Snapchats App and Boom, custom filter.

Facebook AR Studio.

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While GOOG/AAPL/FB are all Tech Company, Facebook is social-first. Facebook offers an AR Studio, an integrated desktop app for developers to create AR experiences for the Facebook camera that are mostly forward facing.

Facebook Platform integrates facial expressions that trigger animation (e.g., raising eyebrows) and segmentation to separate people from the background (Think Green Screen). It should be noted that similar facial features are available in Snapchat Lens Studio, but it is reserved for brands and selected agencies (for now).

Amazon Sumerian.

Then things became strange. While other technology giants are targeting creatives, Amazon is targeting businesses. The product is described as a solution to many of the logistical problems faced by global companies – expensive employee training, inefficient training simulations, and field productivity.

Sumerian’s real differentiator: it is “platform-independent”. You can run anything you build on Rift, Vive, iOS devices (also known as ARKit) and Android devices. This is possible because you work in the browser (thanks to WebGL). There is another feature worth mentioning: Hosts. Hosts are highly intelligent Sims characters. Consider them as avatars that guide you through an AR or VR experience. Customize their appearance, dialog-oriented user interface, and AI. You can be your guide, protagonist or trainer.

What real value can we expect?

As each AR platform evolves over time, it can be divided into different areas:

  • Lifestyle, Utility, Retail und Entertainment: Apple ARKit und Google ARCore
  • Social Content: Snapchat Lens Studio und Facebook AR Studio
  • Business-Services: Amazon Sumerian

ARKit and ARCore with integrated light estimation, fast processing speeds and surface detection – are perfect for turning your home into an exhibition space, taking measurements or solving crazy 3D puzzles.

Lens and AR Studio – with built-in social features – are great for making shared content even more accessible.

Finally, Amazon Sumerian – with its integration into the AWA ecosystem – is a solution for companies looking to enter AR/VR.

There are obvious use cases, but some of them are designed to put the possibilities in the hands of the developers. In other words, there’s nothing to say that you can’t create a social application in ARKit. This means that with enough design, programming and marketing know-how, you can bring it to life on almost any platform.


Remember when the Internet of Things attracted a lot of attention. In the beginning it was practical, then the credit cards connected to the Internet etc. came.

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We will inevitably make the same mistake with AR. Creatives, brands and developers have to face the question: “Does my idea/product/application need AR?

In the future there will be some nice, useful and even strange mobile experiences, which we will look forward to very much.

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