Vuforia 7 – Augmented Reality gets even better!

Many of you will have noticed that Augmented Reality is really booming right now. To a large part, that’s due to the fact that the big players in the app business (Apple and Google) are throwing a lot of money and resources at AR right now. Among other things, that resulted in both of them publishing their own AR frameworks. But there’s another player who is committed to making our lives more interesting.

After Apple bought Metaio, Vuforia was a lone star in the world of Augmented Reality and remained so until the middle of last year. They were specialized in visual tracking and many companies used their technology to add AR to their magazines, catalogues and other print products. Then, Apple entered the limelight with a small revolution called ARKit. Suddenly, there was an entirely new way of tracking where no target was needed and which was perfect for displaying products in 3D and to scale. The new framework recognizes horizontal planes (Breaking news: the current beta-version of ARKit also recognizes vertical planes) and makes it possible to place 3D models within them. This new technique is not only based on image recognition, but also uses the smartphone’s various sensors in order to stabilize the tracking (and this combination works extremely well!!!). Shortly thereafter, Google gave their answer in the shape of ARCore, which is a pretty similar approach for Android phones. Unfortunately, these two frameworks are not yet supported by all iOS and Android devices, but that number is growing steadily.

Now, this begs the question, which horse should you back as an AR developer? Do you stay with Vuforia and accept that you won’t be able to use the new tracking? Or do you switch to Apple’s and Google’s new frameworks and thus forego Augmented Reality for print products? A tough decision. Luckily, since about the middle of December last year, you no longer have to make it! Because it seems that the guys at Vuforia were pondering that very question and gave their answer by publishing Vuforia 7 as their solution to the problem. Vuforia 7 offers three essential additions to the framework, which I will now talk about in more detail.

Vuforia Ground Plane

What Vuforia did was to just rework their own tracking according to ARKit’s and ARCore’s example and integrate it into their existing framework. Thus, it’s now possible to use the new tracking to display products in real size and the normal visual tracking for print material in the same app. Right now, Vuforia Ground Plane also only supports devices compatible with ARKit, but the list of compatible devices for the next release has already been published and looks promising. And if you’re wondering, what some use cases done with Vuforia 7 would look like, check out the following two videos.

Vuforia Fusion

So, why should you use Vuforia’s new tracking when the device manufacturers already offer their own? (And can Vuforia really work equally well as the custom ones?) Well, Vuforia has thought of this as well and has thrown Vuforia Fusion into the mix as well. This function basically just checks whether the device you are using is compatible with ARKit or ARCore. If yes, the app will automatically switch to that framework, directly within Vuforia. To put it differently, Vuforia has integrated both ARKit and ARCore into their framework and will decide live during use, which would be best to use in that moment. Accordingly, Vuforia Ground Plane will be used only for devices which are not compatible with ARKit or ARCore. That makes Vuforia 7 the Augmented Reality Framework with the highest number of supported devices (starting with the next release, of course).

Vuforia Model Targets

Vuforia 7 offers another feature which we, meaning us developers at CodeFlügel, have long been waiting for: a new kind of 3D tracking. Until now, you could use Vuforia’s 3D tracking for very small (i.e. toy-sized) objects only and scanning and tracking the 3D data was tedious to say the least. Now, however, Vuforia 7 offers Model Targets which are created directly from the 3D model and thus work much better as well. And since I think I’ve thrown enough technical talk at you, we decided to activate our office 3D printer and show you the rest instead. We had Vuforia turn the original 3D construction data into our targets for use inside the app. As you can see, the app immediately recognizes the printed object as corresponding to the predefined targets. The white lines show that the model was recognized in 3D not 2D. In the finished app, you could then display any augmented reality content on these lines.

Finally, all that’s left to say is that Augmented Reality has gained many additional use cases and applications and it works more reliably on top of that. With Vuforia 7, you can now use 3D tracking, image tracking and the new plane tracking in a single app, making it possible to cover infinitely more scenarios. We are already working on our first projects with Vuforia 7 and would like to take this opportunity to thank Vuforia for making our projects more exciting and flexible.

THANK YOU Vuforia!