Build Mobile Augmented Reality Applications In 1 Hour
I ran an interesting workshop at Mobile World Congress for people interested in augmented reality. The topic, should I build a plug-in for another application was one of the groups discussion topics.
Some of the audience members were in favour of building plug-ins and I can see the attraction. Products like Layar and Wikitude provide you with the application leaving you only to worry about your POIs. If you are not a marketing expert then you also have the opportunity to take advantage of their vast number of users with out doing a thing.
With all these benefits there must be some drawbacks? Yes there are:
- Complexity: if you are looking for a solution that goes beyond clicking on a POI and displaying data then building a plug-in is not for you. For the time being at least forget an augmented reality version of Pac Man.
- Discoverability: Layar have 10 pages of layars in their UI, if you build a plug-in where will yours be? If you are listed on page 10 will you really get that exposure to the entire user base?
- Money: until recently building a plug-in meant it was free but Layar announced at MWC that from later this month developers will have the opportunity to create paid for layers. Great news for developers, I’m not sure what the revenue model is for this yet as I can’t find any info, but one would assume that Apple will take 30% of the in app purchase and Layar will take percentage as well. So what will developers be left with?
- Prestige: this very much depends on how you want your application to be found. If you are happy with a user clicking on another application before they launch yours then plug-ins are perfect. However if you want a user to click your Icon on the device then plug-ins are not for you
The other option is building an application yourself; the obvious benefits are you control everything and if your application is chargeable you keep a lions share of the money, but it’s not without its draw backs either:
- Bug fixes: You are responsible for fixing those and getting your app though the appstore process
- Marketing: If being on page 10 of an applications plug-in list is a problem, where will you be in the appstore?
But probably the hardest issue to address is how do you get started? Suddenly you need to worry about retrieving your location, which way is the user facing, and just how do I put data in to the camera view. In my talk I was largely on the create you own app side of the fence. Building plug-ins is fine if your data is simple and doesn’t warrent being it’s own application, or you don’t have the skills, or dare I say if you don’t care about it enough to want to market it as yours.
In the real world the problem is often how do I extend my existing geo aware application to include augmented reality, and perhaps more importantly, how do I add the functionality quickly and easily without a major rewrite. Neither of the two solutions above deals with that problem but fortunately there is now a 3rd option that does.
Wikitude have release an api to enable iPhone developers to easily extend or build new standalone applications and include augmented reality functionality. It’s the best of both worlds because the application is yours, users will launch the application using your icon, you take responsibility for the marketing, you control the price etc, and because you are using the tried and tested Wikitude framework it makes develpment a snap.
The framework which is also available for the Android takes the worry out of building applications by doing all the hard work for you, so much of the hard work that we asked the Mobilizy guys to create a new application around football and then set them the challenge of adding augmented reality to extend the application. Nicola took us up on the challenge and said that it took about 30 minutes to extend the application to include the new functionality, which you have to say is pretty impressive.
To demonstrate how easy it really is take a look at the video below:
To begin building your own augmented reality applications for mobile, visit wikitude.org/developers where you can get the API and the sample FIFA project, then follow the 4 simple steps:
- Add the WikitudeAPI-Folder containing the Static Library, Public Headers and Resources to your iPhone-Project in Xcode.
- Add additional frameworks to your project and make changes to the linker flags (details are found in the API documentation)
- Within your custom application, create a new WikitudeARViewController with your registration data – this ViewController returns the camera view.
- Add your data as POI array and start the view
The final step is to tell us at Augmented Planet what you build and your experience with the API.
So, while the debate over create a plug-in or write your own will continue, it has become a lot easier to go down the build your own route. Thanks to the Wikitude API you can have your own icon and eat it too.