AR Technology: ARKIT vs ARCore

Posted On: 17 November 2020
Author: Chelsea
Read Time: 8 Minutes
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AR Technology: ARKIT vs ARCore

Augmented reality (AR) overlays an additional 3D reality that we can interact with whilst remaining firmly in the real-world. It’s a midway point between our everyday lives and the complete immersion offered by virtual reality. 

The opportunities for this technology to seep into every aspect of our lives are astonishing. AR is changing the way we shop online, how we access information on the move and more, making it one of the biggest and most exciting technological developments of the 21st century. According to the latest data, by 2023 there will be an estimated 2.4 billion mobile AR users worldwide. AR technology is already being used across many industries including healthcare, education, national defence, marketing, and gaming.

As you would expect with technology that has such far-reaching potential, world-leading tech firms have been clamouring to dominate the market. In this article, we compare the AR tools created by two key players: Apple and Google.

What is ARKit?

ARKit is Apple’s AR software development kit (SDK). Introduced in 2017, Apple’s ARKit was almost instantly available to developers worldwide thanks to the widespread rollout of the technology across Apple’s compatible devices. It’s currently in its fourth generation, with the introduction of ARKit 4 earlier this year. It has been enthusiastically adopted by the Apple community, with thousands of AR experiences being built and used by Apple customers every day. For the technology to work, it requires an iOS or iPadOS device with iOS 11 and an A9 processor. You can find a full list of compatible devices here.

apple's ar technology

What is ARCore?

ARCore is Google’s SDK that allows developers to build augmented reality applications. Their previous AR platform, Tango, had been around since 2014 but never achieved the impact of Apple’s offering. Google went back to the drawing board and released ARCore to a much better reception in 2018. It is designed to work on Android phones running Android 7.0 (Nougat) and later. Click here for a full list of supported devices.

google's ar technology

Which AR Technology is the Best – ARKit or ARCore?

ARKit and ARCore ultimately achieve similar results and therefore largely deliver the same features and functionality. Both use a mobile device’s internal camera and motion-sensing hardware to track and identify real-world data. They then use this data to accurately integrate virtual models into a physical environment, allowing them to act as any real-world object would.

Both ARKit and ARCore provide the following:

  • Motion tracking: this ensures virtual objects look realistic from all angles by keeping the virtual 3D camera aligned with the device’s camera.
  • Environmental understanding: this is achieved by identifying points, angles, planes and more so that virtual objects can be realistically placed onto real-world surfaces.
  • Light estimation: using the camera on a device, both AR SDK’s can detect physical lighting conditions and light up virtual objects to match.

However, aside from these, each has its standout features.

ARKit Top Features

ARKit 4 comes with some incredible new features that set Apple apart from its competitors:

  • People Occlusion: 3D objects pass realistically in front or behind people to more accurately replicate the real-world.
  • Simultaneous front and back camera: face and world tracking can take place at the same time, opening up far more interactive possibilities.
  • Multiple face tracking: Apple technology can track up to 3 faces at once.
  • Motion capture: ARKit tracks a user’s poses and gestures and inputs them into the AR applications, this means content can interact with human movements.

Other top features that have been around for some time include:

  • AR Quick Look: this is a feature of ARKit that allows users to open 3D models from Safari, Mail, Messages, News and Note. The 3D models are inserted as AR objects into a live view of your real-world environment. Happily, this technology can now be integrated with WooCommerce websites using our AR Quick Look for WooCommerce plugin.
  • Plane Detection: ARKit detects horizontal and vertical surfaces with greater accuracy than ARCore.

ARCore Top Features

While it may not have the same number of new features as ARKit, ARCore delivers far better compatibility.

  • ARCore offers multiple development environments including Android, Unity, Unreal and iOS. Apps created with the ARKit are only compatible with Apple devices whereas ARCore uses APIs to deliver cross-platform experiences.
  • Compared to ARKit, Google’s SDK tracks more feature points in real-world locations, this means that it can map an area quicker.

ARCore compatibility

ARKit Examples

We’ve collated some of the best ARKit applications currently on the market to give you an overview of what is possible with this technology.

Retail – IKEA Place

One of the most well-known ARKit examples is IKEA Place. This app allows IKEA shoppers browsing online to place a 3D model of a furniture item in a physical environment using AR Quick Look technology. Customers can then see where it will fit and what it will look like in the space before they buy it.

ar technology ikea place

Applications like this improve customer engagement and reduce the probability of products being returned. The possibilities for AR use in online retail settings are impressive. Amazon, Target and Argos are just a selection of the retailers that have used ARKit to incorporate AR into their mobile apps.   

AR Quick Look plugin for WooCommerce

The AR Quick Look Plugin for WooCommerce enables this technology to be used on all WordPress WooCommerce sites. It opens up WordPress eCommerce sites to the same retail opportunities that international brands like IKEA have been using to their advantage.

News and Storytelling – New York Times

Back in 2018, the New York Times introduced AR technology to digital storytelling. Flat images used in their stories could become 3D images in a reader’s real-world environment. Providing added visuals and information made reporting more immediate than ever.

ar technology new york times

They are now taking another huge leap with this technology by partnering with Facebook to roll it out across Instagram. Together, they will be developing AR filters and effects for Instagram users that will bring NYT stories to life and introduce their journalism to new audiences. This signals a new era in the relationship between publishing and technology. Beyond its website and applications, this is the first time that NYT is using AR on such scale. Instagram users can access the filters via the effects tab on the @NYTimes Instagram page. Users will also be able to overlay the effects on their own pictures.

ARCore Examples

Now we turn our attention to the most impressive ARCore applications available.

Navigation Systems – Google Maps Live View

Since 2018, Google Maps has incorporated AR technology to deliver easy to follow directions in Google Maps Live View for both Android and iOS users. You can see arrows, directions and distance markers overlayed onto the physical world to show pedestrians exactly where they need to go. This is extremely handy when you are trying to orientate yourself when you pop up from an underground station.

Google is now extending this technology. Users will soon be able to see how far away certain landmarks are and receive directions to get there. Another feature, Live View in Location Sharing, will soon be available for all Android and iOS users. When a friend shares their location with you, you will be able to receive visual directions that will lead you straight to them.

ar technology google maps live view

Digital Customer Service – Streem 

Streem connects customers with household maintenance issues to professional tradespeople. Users and service providers can meet via a live video feed in the app. Customers can show the maintenance professionals any issues using the camera on their device. Using AR, the professionals can then explain how to fix the issue with virtual annotations, sticky arrows and pointers. They can even take measurements and project potential solutions onto the space, reducing the need for costly and unnecessary call-out fees.

ar technology streem app

The implications of this technology go far beyond household repairs. Advanced AR technology can be used to deliver instructions to agricultural machine engineers and jet-engine mechanics.

AR Technology Limitations

There’s no doubt that both ARKit and ARCore are impressive AR development tools. However, neither are perfect. Before you decide on your preferred development suite, double-check what they can’t do to avoid any nasty surprises.

ARKit Limitations

With ARKit, you can only build applications for iOS devices. This may not be such a problem as it initially seems, as although worldwide Android customers outnumber iOS customers, iOS users spend 1.9 times more in the AppStore compared to Android users on Google Play Market.

ARCore Limitations

Apple’s ARKit 4 offers several new features that are currently unavailable to ARCore users. While you can still build highly advanced AR applications, it boils down to a choice between compatibility or additional functionality.

What is the Future of AR Technology?

Investment in augmented reality shows no sign of stopping. As well as Apple and Google, every major tech player is investing heavily in the technology, including Facebook, Microsoft and Amazon.

The AR experiences that currently exist across retail, navigation and customer service will only become more commonplace. Experts predict more advanced developments that will bring more AR learning to our classrooms, operating theatres and manufacturing hubs.

ARKit or ARCore: Which AR Technology Comes Out on Top?

The choice between ARKit and ARCore largely depends on your specific needs and circumstances. Apple and Android each have a similar market share. However, as compatibility between the two SDKs continues to improve, choosing between them may not be the big decision it currently is.

Ultimately, your focus should always remain on creating a quality user experience. Making AR technology easy and enjoyable for consumers is the most reliable way to drive its success in the coming years.