• AR
  • Augmented Reality
  • Mobile SDK Development

True Development Cost of Augmented Reality Apps

Constantine Sharandak
23 Sep 2021
5 min
True Development Cost of Augmented Reality Apps

According to Statista’s projections, the value of the mobile augmented reality (AR) market is forecast to grow to over $21bn by 2024, an enormous jump from the humble $6.16 bn of 2020. Such rapid market growth and advances in AR technology create new opportunities for businesses across industries making the choice to adopt it easy. But integrating new technologies always involves resources and “How much does it cost to develop an augmented reality app?” is one of the first questions businesses ask before embarking on the journey to develop an AR app.

Specific figures and the calculations that go into them are often a trade secret making it tricky to estimate the true cost of augmented reality app development. Moreover, a lot depends on a bunch of other factors that determine the final price of the project. For example, if all the AR features needed for the project are available on the web, the price will reflect only the cost of app development. But if a custom solution with complex features is needed, the price tag can reach hundreds of thousands of dollars.

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    What factors determine AR app development costs?

    Several key components of the AR app development process determine its cost:

    • Underlying AR technology: Marker-based technology that triggers an AR experience by scanning markers, like QR codes or company logos, are the simplest AR apps, making them the least expensive to develop. Markerless apps that scan a live environment and place virtual objects on recognizable features are more expensive because they involve complex recognition technology.
    • Platform and technology stack: Some development platforms are free of charge and offer SDKs for app development (ARKit, ARCore, Vuforia, Wikitude, etc.), while others require payment subscriptions that can vary depending on the toolset.
    • Number of features: Custom features take time to develop, so the more you add, the more expensive the development becomes.
    • 3D models: Development cost increases as you add more 3D models to your app, and it will likely increase for each 3D model that requires animation.
    • API: Development of a native API raises the overall cost of app development.
    • Design: Apps designed from scratch cost more than apps designed from a template. 

    Now, let’s take a look at how desired functionality and expertise of developers affect the cost to develop AR apps.

    AR app development with available SDKs

    Entry-level apps that don’t require complex features are the least expensive to develop, with the help of available SDKs for mobile offered by the platforms mentioned above. Most of them offer free basic plans and charge only to publish your app.

    The SDKs offer a range of basic features, including image recognition, virtual object placement, tracking, and light estimation. This toolset is usually enough to develop a basic AR app. 

    The AirMeasure app, built on the ARKit framework, is a nice example. It’s an AR-powered measuring tool that allows you to estimate the size of physical objects using a virtual tape measure. It comes with over 10 feature modes: point & shoot mode for dynamic measurement, surface mode for measuring horizontal planes, and air mode for using a phone like a traditional tape measure, where the ruler physically moves as you move your phone. 

    True Development Cost of Augmented Reality Apps - photo 1

    Another successful use case is Google AR Stickers, developed on the ARCore platform. Although Google migrated the stickers to the Playground app and no longer supports it, it was fun to place their virtual stickers in a physical environment or add them to photos.

    True Development Cost of Augmented Reality Apps - photo 2

    The main benefits of developing AR apps with ready-made SDKs are predictable outcomes and a minimal risk of failure because this approach relies on tried and true standard libraries, integration of pre-developed third-party solutions, a simple feature set, and a standard design. However, the limited number of features makes them good for basic tasks but not for custom solutions.

    Custom solutions’ development

    If you want something fancy, like 3D model animation or a custom rendering approach that hasn’t been extensively tested yet, you’ll need engineers to develop a custom algorithm.

    This approach will require time and financial resources compared to using ready-made SDKs, adding to the overall development cost.

    For instance, Tactic developed an AR app for Jim Beam using Wikitude’s image tracking technology as a foundation. They took that foundation and customized it to meet the needs of the client. The basic image tracking feature allows AR apps to detect, track, and augment 2D images. The Jim Beam AR app expanded on this to give users an immersive experience that paired visuals with animated clips of American history when users pointed a smartphone at a bottle of Jim Beam liquor. For this project, Tactic developed visual elements into an interactive timeline that users can watch in either linearly or interactively.

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      R & D and innovation

      To introduce innovative solutions new to the market, a research and development team must put in months of work. Besides developers and designers, you’ll need experts in machine learning whose experience extends far beyond standard algorithms.

      This is understandably the trickiest and most expensive approach to AR app development and involves risks. Failure is always a possible risk with innovative solutions. There is a chance that the developed solution simply won’t work as intended since no similar use cases were available at the development stage of an app. While failure is not inevitable, the product owner should be ready to take responsibility for any possible outcome (including success!).

      Final thoughts

      Cost estimation for AR app development is an early step in the development cycle. Before calculating an estimate, it’s best to outline the idea with as much detail as possible. This allows you to see if there are available frameworks or algorithms you could use for the project, or if you need a team of experts to work on customized features.

      The industry doesn’t offer ready-made solutions for complex AR development; all that’s available are SDKs with basic toolsets. Thus, the price tag for the projects can vary from hundreds to hundreds of thousands of US dollars.

      To get an accurate estimate of the cost for your AR app, please leave us your email in the contact form above and we’ll get back to you.

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