Augmented reality development systems

As well as a range of stand-alone Augmented Reality apps that users can download, Augmented Reality authoring systems are also emerging that enable users to create their own Augmented Reality experiences. These systems vary greatly in by functionality, usability and cost. Some of the more common Augmented Reality authoring systems are listed below.  Note that as an emerging area of software the platforms can be unstable, as well as the longevity of the organisations that produce them.





Augment allows AR to be created using printed images.  By selecting a 2D image as in a magazine or postcard, a 3D object can be superimposed and manipulated.  
 Augment for Print allows Publishers and Brands to add AR 3D objects to print and signage. Users scan the printed materials with the free Augment app and instantly view 3D images and content on top of it.  
 There is no requirement to create a personal Channel, although augmentations can be set as Private or Public.   
  See Step by step guide to using Augment   


 Layar is a Dutch company which started in 2010.   The Layar application makes use of the following:  
  • Accelerometer
  • Built-in camera
  • Compass
  • GPS

These can be used in combination to identify the user’s location and field of view. From the geographical position, the various forms of data are laid over the camera view, as if inserting an additional layer.   Layar has grown from 1000 layers July 2010 to 40,000 layers as of June 2013. The Layar app available for mobile devices allows access to the AR files created using the Layar Creator online site. Users can also scan QR codes, view and navigate to locations nearby, and learn more about these locations using the Layar data. They can also share these with friends on social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter or via Email.   

 Layar has published a magazine as a showcase of features.    The major thrust the company takes is using AR as a means of bringing ‘print to life’. Catalogs, brochures, business cards and magazines are enabled with augmented videos, active web links, images and audio. The product is free but for limited periods and with ads or $20 ad-free and with statistical data.   Layar is one of the easiest apps for a novice to build their own AR without prior experience of AR.   See Step by step guide to using Layer    

A useful TED talk on Aurasma

Aurasma is available as an SDK or as a free app for iOS and Android mobile devices, Aurasma's image recognition technology uses a smartphone's or tablet's camera to recognize real world images and then overlay rich media on top of them in the form of animations, videos, 3D models and web pages. Businesses and users use Aurasma to create & share their own augmented reality experiences as well as discover digital content around them, with teachers among the most active group using the platform.    Aurasma's Handbook provides an excellent outline of technical issues involved in creation of effective AR.   Some development issues extant in systems such as Aurasma are apparent.  

See Step by step guide to using Aurasma   

Paper 4D


Paper 4D offers paid commercial applications for augmented reality. A free demo is offered.


Wikitude Studio

Wikitude Studio is a web-based IDK  with drag and drop functionality allowing for up to 1000 target images offline.
The tool functions as a Content Management System and supports images, animation, 3D and video overlays.  
 Wikitude offers a free trial of their Studio product and a sliding pricing scale dependent upon the number of images starting at $10AUD per month for 3 images to over $200AUD per month for 100 images.  



Metaio is an AR company that offers Metaio Creator as a tool for non programmers to create AR scenes.   Metaio offers Junaio as a free AR mobile browser which has many additional features to Layar.  It offers sophisticated interaction with the real world environment as well as gaming. It has, however,  a more primitive development environment and a steeper learning curve for newcomers.    Metaio's Creator Demo mode is limited in access and to two media items and pricing is expensive: hundreds per month or thousands outright.   It uses images and published materials or real-life objects as targets for 2D, audio, links and 3D content. The GUI and registration processes are convoluted.  



 BuildAR enables projects that can be published as a channel on Junaio - an Augmented Reality Browser".  Launched in 2009, as the world's first AR Content Management System (AR-CMS), the latest major release of BuildAR (version 3) was launched in November 2012. It offers integration with the web, simplified editing, 3D in a web browser preview and control over animation and interactions. BuildAR has partnered with Metaio and now supports the Junaio and Metaio SDK platforms for native AR applications.  


  String offers two approaches for creating AR:  using Unity (preferred by String), or by using OpenGL. The steep learning curves for these two approaches are indicated by the opening paragraphs of their respective String tutorials.  
This manual explains how to add StringTM to a new or existing project. It requires experience with Cocoa Touch and OpenGL ES. All of the example code can be found in full working form in the tutorial project.The first thing you do is to add these three files from the Libraries and Headers folders of the StringTM SDK to your Xcode project: libStringOGL*.a, StringOGL.h and TrackerOutput.h. You also need to add the frameworks AVFoundation, CoreGraphics, CoreMedia and CoreVideo.The class in your app which owns the StringOGL instance, normally a view controller, needs to include StringOGL.h and implement the StringOGLDelegate protocol. This protocol has only one required method, render, in which you perform your own rendering.Please note that the iOS simulator is not supported by StringTM, as it lacks a camera API. The String library requires iOS 4.0 or newer. 
This guide takes you through adding StringTM for iOS to a new or existing Unity project. It requires some knowledge of Unity. If you’d like to jump right in, the SDK comes with a Unity tutorial project that’s ready to run.Prerequisites:
  • Unity 3.5 or newer for iOS. With the Pro version (which allows editor plugins) on OS X, you get StringTM preview functionality in the Unity editor. Please note that because of the nature of String’s integration with Unity, we can’t guarantee forward compatibility with future Unity releases. We’ll be responding to any compatibility issues ASAP, and issuing updates whenever necessary.
  • The latest Xcode and iOS SDK.
  • A valid development provisioning profile. Please go to the iOS Dev Center for more info.
  • If you’re planning on using String’s preview tool, please install Unity Remote for iOS.
  • The String library requires iOS 4.0 or later.

Their String Showcase is one of the most popular AR demonstration packs currently available.


Inglobe Technologies' ARMedia was an early entrant in the provision of tools for non programmers to create AR experiences.  
More compelling was the ability to do so within one of the most easy-to-use free 3D design applications: Google Sketchup, now Trimble SketchUp.
The requisite plugins can be purchased and installed, allowing the output of an Augmented marker based scene and the design of the required markers.  
A player is available for both mobile and desktop systems, however multiple markers are currently only supported by the desktop player.
Plugins are available for the following software:


Summary table of AR authoring app features 


AR Product

Ease of use
Marker generationTriggered by imageTriggered by locationiOSAndroidBlackberryoverlay
overlay videoCost for AR authoringComments
Augment 1 NAXXXXhighsimple 3D authoring with limit to one tracker in free iOS version, more by joining
Layar 1 NAXhighfree with ads for limited time period but costs per page, statistics offered; SDK available for 3D
Wikitude Studio 2 NAXhighsliding scale up to $200AUD per month. Web based
Aurasma Studio 2 NAXhighfree for non wrapped apps; SDK available
ARMedia 2 XXXmediummarker creation tool, plugins for SketchUp 3D models
Metaio Creator + Junaio browser 3 NAXhighfree to try limited to two items; SDK available
BuildAR ? NAXmediumcontent management
Paper4D3NAXXhighcommercial AR system. Free demo
String 3 XXXhighUnity 3D engine for models, integrates well with Unity


Open source systems


  • Argon: augmented reality browser that uses a mix of KML and HTML/JavaScript/CSS to allow developing AR applications; any web content (with appropriate meta-data and properly formatted) can be converted into AR content; as of November 2011, available for iPhone only.
  • ARToolKit: an open source (dual-license: GPL, commercial) C-library to create augmented reality applications; was ported to many different languages and platforms like Android, Flash or Silverlight; widely used in augmented reality related projects.
  • ATOMIC Authoring Tool: a multi-platform authoring for creating AR applications on Microsoft Windows, Linux and Mac OS X operating systems.
  • GRATF: open-source (GPLv3) project, which includes C# library for detection, recognition and 3D pose estimation of optical glyphs. The project includes application, which does 2D and 3D augmented reality
  • mixare (mix Augmented Reality Engine), open-source (GPLv3) augmented reality engine for Android and iPhone; works as an autonomous application and for developing other implementations
  • PTAM: non-commercial use only.
  • DroidAR: open source (dual-license: GPLv3 or commercial) augmented reality framework for Android, featuring location based and marker based AR.


AR Development Toolkits


  • Metaio SDK: offers free natural features tracking and 3D tracking that is available for Android, iOS and Microsoft Windows.
  • String: offers commercial implementation of AR apps for iOS using either OpenGL and Unity3D based SDKs.  A Showcase site illustrates its potential.
  • Vuforia Augmented Reality SDK: formerly known as QCAR, is a Software Development Kit for creating augmented reality applications for mobile devices.
  • VYZAR: is a cross-platform SDK for iOS and Android, with both an Augmented Reality and 3D engine
  • Wikitude: the Wikitude SDK is a library which can be embedded in native third party application Android, BlackBerry_10 and iOS, which uses web technologies to create the Augmented Reality content.


AR Content Management Systems


  • metaio Creator: a desktop tool to create and publish AR scenarios.
  • a web based content platform for building geolocation and natural feature tracking based mobile augmented reality.
  • Hoppala Augmentation: a web based content platform for creating geolocation based mobile augmented reality.
  • Webcam Social Shopper: web based software for integrating apparel visualization on e-commerce sites.
  • a website for trying out wearable apparels visualization on e-commerce sites.
  • PLAKAR | AUGMENTED REALITY: web based platform for for the augmentation of printed materials and Out of Home Media.

  other is the proprietary AR app for the Times of India

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