• AR
  • Augmented Reality
  • iOS

Top Tools To Develop AR Applications

Yura Velichko
10 Sep 2021
5 min
Top Tools To Develop AR Applications

The wide availability of electronic devices enabling the use of the latest augmented reality (AR) technology, as well as advances in smartphone technology, have opened the doors for non-specialists who want to work on AR development tools without extra effort.

According to Statista’s projections, the augmented and virtual reality industry is forecast to grow into a 160-billion-dollar market by 2023. As of 2018, 77% of people in the USA accessed the technology used in augmented reality via their smartphones, while only 19% used stand-alone devices.

The trend highlights the role of smartphones in augmented reality development, creating more tools for users to develop customized AR apps. If you are looking for a cheap way to develop your own AR app and minimize the invested effort, you should consider one of the following software development kits (SDKs) that will serve as a good platform for your solution.

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    ARKit is a set of AR development tools for iPhones and iPads first presented by Apple in 2017. It uses the camera’s sensors, gyroscope and accelerometer to collect the data needed for accurate detection of the device’s location in space. The SDK analyzes this information and enables the placement of virtual objects in the user’s surroundings. Among other common capabilities, the platform deals with object placement, light estimation, and environmental mapping.

    The latest iteration, ARKit 5, boasts an advanced tracking and detection feature making it easy for this platform to stand out from the rest. It combines device motion tracking, camera scene capture, advanced scene processing and display conveniences to simplify the task of building an AR experience. It’s possible to create multiple AR experiences with these technologies using the front or rear camera of an iOS device.

    ARKit also offers its users a number of advanced features, including:

    • location anchors that allow users to anchor their AR creations at specific locations, such as cities or famous landmarks;
    • expanded face tracking support that extends to the front-facing camera and allows tracking of up to three faces at once;
    • integrated LIDAR technology that makes virtual object occlusion even more realistic by enabling instant placement of virtual objects and blending them seamlessly with their physical surroundings;
    • motion capture that detects people’s movement and operates as an input to the AR experience;
    • people occlusion that enables AR content to realistically pass behind and in front of people in the real world, making AR experiences more immersive while also enabling green screen-style effects.


    ARCore is Google’s AR development platform that can be called an alternative to ARKit and has been on the market since 2018. However, unlike ARKit, which operates only on iOS, this one works both on iOS and Android. 

    The SDK supports a bundle of the main features to blend AR experiences into physical reality: motion tracking, light estimation and environmental understanding. On top of that, it has a number of advanced features:

    • augmented images that enable users to trigger AR experiences by pointing their phone cameras at certain images; 
    • oriented points that make it possible to place virtual objects on angled surfaces.

    It’s fair to say that ARCore’s functionality is pretty similar to ARKit’s. ARCore gives users more flexibility in terms of the choice of device, whereas ARKit provides an upscale user experience since it offers control over the software and the hardware of the devices developed on its platform.


    Vuforia is another popular set of augmented reality development tools that also offers its users such basic features as placement of virtual objects, model and area targeting, as well as image rendering. It’s compatible with Android, iOS and UWP (Universal Windows Platform).

    Its latest release, Vuforia Engine 10, has a modernized API that simplifies tracker lifecycle and the managing of targets. This release also introduced a new DYNAMIC motion hint for all object targets, including image-, cylinder-, multi- and model targets. This motion hint optimizes tracking for targets that are constantly moving.

    Vuforia offers simple development options with Unity as it’s built into the latest versions of the platform, helping to avoid installation issues.

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      Wikitude is an AR development platform providing location-based AR experiences with the help of the Wikitude World Browser app. It has been around since 2008 and has gone through significant upgrades since then.

      It’s a cross-platform SDK that is supported by Android, iOS, Windows and smart glasses. 

      Here are some of the features supported by Wikitude: image, object and scene tracking; multiple image targeting that makes it possible to augment images simultaneously and interactively; multiple object targeting that makes it possible to attach interactive augmentations to multiple objects simultaneously; geo AR that enhances geographical locations with points of interest; and AR bridge, enabling direct communication between Wikitude and ARKit’s/ArCore’s positional tracking.

      With Wikitude you can create AR-powered apps for smart glasses, use advanced technology for positional tracking SLAM (Simultaneous Localization and Mapping), use Wikitude’s online studio  for developing static virtual objects, and much more.


      MaxST is a strong competitor of the above-mentioned platforms that has a library of over 7,000 AR apps produced with the help of its SDK. It can be paired with iOS, Android, Unity and is compatible with smart glasses. In addition to the usual image and object tracking, MaxST offers the following interesting features:

      • Optimized Visual SLAM that is tailored to the smartphone environment, unlike other existing SLAMs, which require separate hardware equipped with sensors. It allows the creation of a virtual map by extracting the point cloud of the real environment with just one RGB camera;
      • QR/Barcode Reader that can recognize pre-programmed QR-codes and barcodes;
      • AR Fusion Tracker that augments the contents outside the target and can be used based on image tracker, instant tracker, marker tracker, QR code tracker or object Tracker.


      In 2022, developing a full-fledged AR development platform has become easier than ever before. All you need is a working smartphone and the concept of a solution that you want to build. The latest augmented reality technology offers a variety of ready-made tools with tried-and-true features that will help you to achieve your goals. 

      The only drawback of such tools is a lack of flexibility as you have to work with pre-designed SDKs. However, developing a customized algorithm to build an app that’s tailored to your needs requires more effort and resources.

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