Native AR versus Web AR. Which is for me?

So what exactly are we comparing?

When starting a project, one of the first questions you need to answer is, “What platforms will we support?” In the case of augmented reality, that question carries a lot of weight. Augmented reality platforms have varying uptake and capabilities. These qualities can have a significant impact on both revenue and costs. In this post, we are going to focus on AR for smartphones and tablets. If you are considering AR for headsets, you have more to consider than what’s covered here. So when should you choose native AR versus web AR?

What do you already have?

This first and primary deciding factor is going to be, “What do I already have?” This question applies not only to augmented reality but to apps in general. If you are building a new feature into an existing application, you should target your feature to your platforms. Does your app run only on iOS? You would need to support iOS. Granted, it’s still possible to reevaluate the application as a whole to broaden or narrow support as you see fit. If you are building a new product from scratch, you have more freedom in your decision-making process.

Man opens an iPhone simulator on a laptop usning Xcode

Native AR

Apps have been popular among consumers for as long as smartphones have been around. The App Store, Google Play, Amazon App Store, and even Galaxy Store provide consumers with a centralized source of downloading apps to their phones. These apps “run natively,” meaning they run directly on the CPU of the device. As opposed to running in a browser.

Plaforms

Both iOS and Android provide an augmented reality platform. On the Apple side, we have ARKit. It is available going back to some pretty old devices, including iPhone SE (1st generation) and iPod touch 7th generation. On Android, ARCore is made available through the Google Play Services to supported phones and tablets. When you download an AR app on a supported device, ARCore will download in the background, enabling AR functionality. With so many Android devices, Google has a list available of supported devices.

Advantages of Native AR

  1. Performance
    Augmented reality is a resource-intensive feature, no getting around it. Many devices allocate specific amounts of resources to AR apps to account for this. Browsers have additional overhead compared to native apps. As a result, native apps have more resources available to them.
  2. Advanced Rendering
    Native apps have direct access to a device’s graphics processing unit or GPU for short. The graphics processing unit is responsible for drawing things to the screen. Browsers don’t have access to all of it. Native apps can use the full potential of the GPU, resulting in better-looking experiences.
  3. Access to platform-specific features
    Some applications require access to specific hardware, like the LIDAR on iPhones and iPads, to provide their features. These platform-specific features are not available through browsers. Browser APIs are general purpose and don’t provide access to specific hardware functionality. By building a native app, you gain access to this hardware.
Icons of several web browsers viewed on a iPhone screen

Web AR

Web augmented reality is a broad category. It includes any AR experience delivered through a web browser, even ones relying on browser-specific functionality.

Browser Functionality

Browsers these days have a lot of functionality built into them. They can do more than look up cat videos and social media. The web as a platform is very capable of running full-featured apps. WebXR is a draft web standard to bring augmented reality and virtual reality content to the web. Unfortunately, it’s not widely available enough to recommend use for AR as of yet. The VR portion, however, is ready to use in specialized circumstances.

Until WebXR is more developed, we still have options for augmented reality content. Mobile browsers have non-standard technologies available to view AR content. On iOS and iPad, we have AR Quick Look, and on Android, we have Scene Viewer. Both of these provide a lot of functionality out of the box. But you are also limited to the features provided.

Advantages of Web AR

  1. Low user friction
    Your users never have to download an app. That allows your users to begin using the experience sooner. By providing the experience directly on the web, your users can skip downloading an app and get straight to the content.
  2. Faster and cheaper to launch
    By building on web technologies, you can launch features and updates faster. The web uses standardized languages like HTML, CSS, and JavaScript that work across all devices. Native apps, on the other hand, need to be customized for each platform. By developing for the web, you can spend less time on platform-specific development and more time on broad support.

Summary

Overall, when considering native AR versus web AR, one isn’t always better than the other. Each has its advantages which are going to apply differently based on your use case. It’s going to be primarily influenced by your existing functionality. If your product is already available on both native and web, you should consider launching AR on both. New products could use this comparison. Generally, simple AR experiences, like product visualization, should be available on the web. While more complex ones, like full home design apps, should target native.


Frame Push builds augmented and virtual reality apps, web apps, and experiences to help your business succeed. Contact us to integrate our expertise into your plan.

How Can Manufacturing Take Advantage of Augmented Reality?

The assembly line is often cited as a major innovation in the history of manufacturing. And with good reason. It revolutionized the process of creating goods by improving efficiency by orders of magnitude. Henry Ford famously said the integration of the assembly line into Model T manufacturing reduced the time of making one car from 12 hours down to 1½ hours. This trend continued with the introduction of robotics into the assembly line to perform highly repetitive tasks. Even today, Ford is improving more with the use of artificial intelligence to boost robot ability.

A junior technician using AR guidance without specific prior training was able to complete an equipment repair faster than senior techs

All the changes over the years have the same ultimate goal: increase output. With all the talk around automation, it’s easy to forget there are other ways to improve productivity. In this post, we will look at ways augmented reality (AR) is being used to the benefit of manufacturers.

Ahead-of-time Training

The first place AR is being used isn’t even on the floor itself; it’s in training. When an employee or service professional needs training, the frequent starting point is printed material. This is especially true when training for dangerous or complex tasks. You don’t want a trainee jumping straight into a situation where they could be injured. Augmented reality provides you with entirely virtual setups. With AR, trainees can try putting their training into practice on virtual life-size equipment.

This type of training can also occur in virtual reality. VR grants you much more customization of the experience. In VR, you also have control over the environment and surroundings in which the training occurs. This is especially useful for situations where a trainee must perform a task while also reacting to changing conditions around them.

Train from anywhere

Augmented reality and virtual reality training fall under “learn-by-doing” education. Studies have shown this type, including AR and VR, to have much better retention than other teaching methods. The retention rate is as high as 75% compared to only 10% for reading material. And because the training is virtual, the increased retention is achieved without the dangers or expenses associated with live training.

In-Context Instruction

Training and education are necessary for individuals to succeed, but they can not continue forever. At some point, people need to begin the actual work. Augmented reality can assist here as well. AR headsets and tablets are capable of providing information overlays directly on top of your equipment. This offers several benefits over written material.

By providing information spatially, workers can focus on performing the task at hand instead of translating from written material. How many times do people go back and forth from a book to a piece of equipment? With AR, you can take that same information and put it directly on top of the equipment. Infrequently performed tasks will greatly benefit from the integration of a manual. Each step of a process can have its own overlay with relevant information. Instead of flipping through pages of a manual, a worker can look at something to get information about it.

Everybody working on an assembly line or floor can take advantage of AR information. Operators can learn new procedures and processes. Engineers can virtually layout new setups. Technicians can review service steps and hazards. And these are only a few of the many examples of AR used directly on the floor. In one instance, a technician was able to complete a service procedure without prior training. Significantly, he was able to complete it faster than experienced senior technicians.

Remote Spatial Support

Even the best manuals don’t have all the answers. Sometimes you have to ask somebody a question. When that time comes, bring in a subject matter expert, even if they are on the other side of the world.

Standing with an expert, walking you through a procedure is ideal. But that’s not always possible. A phone call can sometimes resolve those questions. Other times, a video call is needed to show the topic visually. These still have limitations compared to in-person explanations. Augmented reality addresses those limits. It does this primarily by providing spatial interactions across video calls.

Video calls enhanced with augmented reality enable the call receiver to highlight points of interest directly through the video feed. This isn’t just some overlay on the screen of the caller. It tracks the surroundings of the caller to remain correct even when they change their view. These highlights can show more than simple arrows. They can include text, images, drawings, links, or even full immersive apps to convey what is needed.

In Conclusion

Augmented reality is still a relatively young technology in the manufacturing field. Despite this, companies that deploy it to their workforce see improvements to their output. Training is a major application of AR across many verticals but is especially useful in manufacturing. Digital manuals using AR provide more information with more accessibility than printed counterparts. Lastly, AR-enhanced video calls facilitate better communication between SMEs and those requiring support.


Frame Push builds augmented and virtual reality apps, web apps, and experiences to help your business succeed. Contact us to integrate our expertise into your plan.

How Can Retail Take Advantage Of Augmented Reality?

Augmented reality (AR) gets a lot of talk about how much of a game changer it is for the modern world. Speaking recently with Inc. Magazine, Scott Belsky, co-founder of Behance now executive at Adobe, says augmented reality is the future of commerce.

It’s actually quite astounding how quickly the technology has become available to the mainstream. There are about 3 billion smartphones capable of AR already in the hands of users.

Having a 3D version of your product on your website has proven to double conversion rates.

Shopify

Here, we will talk about how the age old and highly competitive industry of retail can integrate and ultimately benefit from augmented reality. The introduction of AR is proving to be as significant of a change as e-commerce was decades ago. Businesses who embrace it early will be a step ahead of their competitors.

Product Visualization

The most widely used application of augmented reality as of today is product visualization. AR is well suited to talking a virtual product and placing it in the context of the real world. In the past, this was only possible through advanced photo or video editing work. With the computing power available in smartphones, it is now possible for everyone to perform these tasks with only a few taps. Brick and mortar stores are excellent for providing consumers with a place to shop and see products. E-commerce gave consumers a way to look at products from the convenience of their own homes with needing to ship products or samples back and forth. But online pictures can only go so far, which led to the development of 360 degree views.

Will this couch physically fit next to your existing chairs? With augmented reality you can check without having to go find your tape measure. Open the app on your phone and virtually place that couch on the floor to see if there is room. Alternatively, people can use AR to measure objects, rooms, and floor spaces. Apps can tell users “Yes, this will fit here” or “No, this won’t fit here” at the push of a button. This builds consumer confidence in ways not feasible before AR technology.

Will this couch match your existing chairs? I don’t think I need to explain how important the appearance of products is to a sale. Consumers have several existing options for this. They can visit a store, look at pictures online, or better yet, look at a 3D view online. Each of these has limitations solved by augmented reality. AR puts the couch right in the room next to all the existing furniture. Consumers don’t have to use their imagination or compare home photos while at the store. AR apps can match the lighting on virtual objects to that of the room they are in, so they don’t have to rely on the lighting in online photos or 360 degree views.

Woman holding an iPad looking at a camera view of the room on the screen. Virtual objects exist in the iPad view not present in the actual room.
Example: Ikea Place

Ikea’s augmented reality home designer, Ikea Place, was among the first AR home design apps. You can browse their catalog and place many of the items in your living space using AR.

Experiences like this rely on having 3D models of your products. Product images simply won’t cut it in augmented reality. The good news is, if you have 360 degree views of your product on your website you likely already have those 3D models. But even if you don’t, there are several ways to make them. The easiest of which is to build the product using modeling software like Blender or Maya to give you a file suitable for placement in an app. Making these 3D models gives you a definitive competitive advantage, as measured by Shopify, “Having a 3D version of your product on your website has proven to double conversion rates.”

Try On

While placing products on the floor or walls is a primary use case, there is actually an older, more well known use case, face filters. These have traditionally not been referred to as AR. Snapchat bundled these under AR when they started adding floor tracking filters to their app. Since then “filters” have been increasingly labelled as AR. The applications have also grown beyond giving you dog ears.

Google applied machine learning to augmented reality to achieve effects not possible with selfie cameras alone. They integrated the technology into the YouTube app to give creators more tools for creativity. One of their demos of the tech showcased one of the ideal use cases for retail: trying on glasses. Warby Parker has an iPhone app using the sophisticated front-facing camera system to give consumers the ability to try on glasses.

Screenshots of the Pinterest app featuring eyeshadow product view, a woman in a selfie view with the eye-shadow virtually applied, and similar product lists.
Example: Pinterest

Last year, Pinterest launched a new feature in their app to let users try on make up from their pins. With this, users could search for lipstick, open a pin, and try on the lipstick within a few seconds, all without visiting a store or tracking down samples. This year, they expanded the feature to include eye-shadow. If this trend continues, users will one day be able to try on entire looks by mixing and matching products virtually before applying any moisturizer. And once finished, the users could buy all the products they virtually used in a single tap.

Marketing

Augmented reality is still a new technology to many consumers, and it is becoming increasingly accessible. Even with AR adoption rates below those of mobile devices, AR ads are proving to be highly effective. When Miller Lite ran an AR ad they saw a 75 percent re-engagement rate and session lengths averaging 3 minutes. Overall, they saw a brand lift of 25 percent among people who interacted with the ad. This is absolutely remarkable compared to traditional web advertising including banners and pre-roll videos.


Frame Push builds augmented and virtual reality apps, web apps, and experiences to help your business succeed. Contact us to integrate our expertise into your plan.