At the office, we all got a bit envious when only our graphic designer Casper was granted access to the notorious Facebook AR Studio. It’s a closed beta version, so only a few hundreds people worldwide are allowed to use the developer version of Facebook’s newest AR addition and our Casper is one of them! In the meantime, he’s the only person in our team to have downloaded the beta version of iOS 11 so he can try out Apple AR Kit. You could say Casper is our AR guinea pig at the moment 😉
Putting both Facebook and Apple to the test
We’ve said it many times before and we keep saying it: Augmented Reality is the next big thing! More businesses seem to understand this and even the big businesses are investing more money into AR. Now both Facebook and Apple have introduced their own AR platforms. I’ve talked to Casper and together we have put Facebook and Apple to the test. Which company’s development has more future growth potential? And what exactly are the differences? Not only based on online research, but really tested by yours truly!
First off: Facebook AR Studio
Facebook introduced its AR studio in April this year, during Facebook’s F8 developer conference. In the period after the announcement every person interested could apply for the developer studio, knowing that only a few would be chosen to get access to the actual AR Studio. We all applied, but only Casper got in. No problem, because now he can tell us all about it!
So, what can you do with Facebook AR Studio right now? It basically allows you to create your own personalized AR face filters (yes, just like Snapchat). Face filters that recognize and tracks human faces, interact with movement (such as opening your mouth or raising your eye brows) and can be 100% personalized.
(Mark Zuckerberg during the F8 Developer Conference this April. Credits: TIME Youtube/Facebook)
When installing the AR Studio program, a set with example face filters is included, but the real fun starts when creating your very own filters of course! You’re able to add your own effects, textures and 3D files such as .dae and .obj. When granted access to the Studio, you also get added to the special Facebook group for Facebook AR Studio developers. Here you can see whom is able to use the Studio right now and you’re able to share tips & tricks or ask each other questions. In this group about 20 Facebook developers who are working on the AR Studio are present as well, so when there’s bugs, you can share it in the Facebook group. This way you really get involved in developing and finetuning the platform. Besides that, you get access to a website with special tutorial videos about adding animations and scripting.
It seems as if the main goal of Facebook AR Studio is to make it as easy as possible, so really everyone will be able to create their own filters in the (nearby) future). Right now, the developer’s version allows you to code a bit more, but we believe it will be very user-friendly and intuitive when it will get introduced to the big crowd. In the meantime, we’ve created our very own face filter! It’s available for every mobile user who has liked our Facebook page. Just head to our Facebook page (on your mobile) and try the filter yourself!
Facebook has big plans for their AR Studio. A list of what’s available already and what’s to come in the future can be found here. Right now the studio is mainly focused on face filters. You CAN create world filters (for your surroundings), but we think Facebook needs to update this feature a bit more before we will start creating world filters. Right now the objects you place in a world filter are very static and not in the right perspective. But that’s where Apple AR Kit comes in!
Next: Apple ARKit
The very first day Casper told us he had installed the beta version of iOS 11 and Apple ARKit, everyone at the office wanted to test it. Placing gigantic lamps on the floor of our office, tiny candles (with shadows that reacted to the light exposure of the camera!) in closets and realistic coffee cups on our desks. We placed an impressive realistic 3D model of a chair at the end of the hall and when we walked closer, it just stayed put. Normally, with many other AR apps that allow you to place digital furniture, it just moves along with your movements. With Apple ARKit 3D objects remain wherever you place them, allowing you to actually walk around the objects and get nearby.
Apple ARKit was first introduced during WWDC 2017 in June this year. When the iOS 11 update will come later this year, ARKit will be included in the software. For now, you still need the beta version of iOS 11 to experiment with the ARKit as a developer. The main focus of the ARKit lies on your surroundings and adding digital objects to your exterior (so not to your face, as Facebook’s AR Studio does).
(Craig Federighi introduces ARKit. Credits: Apple)
Casper has tested Apple ARKit as well, but less active then the Facebook AR Studio. This is because Apple ARKit takes a bit more programming to understand and to create yourself. This makes Apple ARKit slightly difficult to use for people with just mediocre knowledge of scripting and programming. It’s specifically designed for developers. It didn’t stop Casper though!
ARKit uses a technique called Visual Inertial Odometry (VIO) and Core Motion to track and scan your surroundings. This makes the software smart enough to know quite right what the room looks like (even in depth) and how you’re moving in this room. The camera of your iPhone or iPad is able to detect horizontal surfaces (such as a table) and makes it possible to put virtual objects right on top of it. To use all of this, you got to have a decent knowledge of coding.
We at Dutch Rose Media are so impressed by Apple ARKit! Every time a client comes by, we highjack Casper’s phone and show the realistic possibilities of this app. It’s super steady; we haven’t seen 3D objects being placed as solid as the ones in ARKit. We really believe Apple has shaped a new way for AR to become mainstream (and practical to use).
(Actual screen shots of Facebook AR Studio (left) and Apple ARKit (right))
So: what do we think?
Actually you can’t really compare these two AR developments to one another. Where Facebook is focusing more on face tracking and filters right now, Apple is focusing more on placing 3D objects in your surroundings. And where Facebook is focusing more on social, sharing and (user) data, Apple is focusing more on creating functional and correct software with a realistic twist. Both companies have said that they will slowly extend their AR software. Facebook is planning on adding bones and 3D animations into their software, as well as world tracking (the thing ARKit is focusing on right now). It’s still a bit mysterious what Apple is planning next, but one thing is sure: they really want AR to get mainstream. With the ARKit software included in the new iOS 11, it might even be included in our smartphone’s camera?
Where Facebook AR Studio is available for both Apple devices and Android devices, Apple ARKit is only available on Apple devices (of course). However, ARKit can be implemented into other apps, while AR Studio can only be used for the Facebook application. We believe that right now the ARKit has a bigger future growth potential. Facebook’s AR Studio still has the ‘hey-this-is-fun-let’s-try-it’ feeling, while ARKit already shows more functional objectives. Besides that, it’s very impressive what Apple has been able to do: placing virtual 3D objects this steady and this precise.
On the other hand, Facebook AR Studio is way easier to work with if you’re not a developer, and thereby more accessible to the big crowd. It really depends on what you want to use AR for right now whether AR Studio or ARKit will fit your purposed better. All we can say is that we are super excited that big developments like these are happening right now. What a time to be alive!