What is it? and how to create augmented reality applications on Android with Wikitude

- Andrés Cruz

En español
What is it? and how to create augmented reality applications on Android with Wikitude

To talk about Wikitude, we must first understand some basic concepts such as augmented reality; augmented reality is nothing more than an endowment to the user so that he can combine virtual elements with his physical environment to create an interactive mixed reality, in other words it adds a virtual layer to the real elements:

wikitude developer

Augmented reality is the incorporation of data in a real environment through other techniques used such as image recognition.

Wikitude, a fundamental tool to create Augmented Reality content

Before continuing talking about Wikitude and all its virtues and facilities that it brings us to work with Augmented Reality without the need to invest a dollar or euro; let's talk a little about this resource that allows us to easily create content for Augmented Reality and Augmented Reality as such.

What is augmented reality?

Augmented Reality is a powerful resource that can be used for different purposes, ranging from recreational purposes, such as games to educational purposes, they are used by museums, living museums that we can interact digitally with all the resources, sculptures and everything that is in the museum through a simple tablet as we can see in this small museum in Mexico:

And in games like Pokemon Go, which could be considered the biggest success Augmented Reality has had in games.

Ok, but what is Augmented Reality?

All this that we have introduced is done with the purpose of indicating that it is Augmented Reality that we can simply define as the enrichment, the addition of digital content to a real environment, as simple as that, this digital content is added through a screen of a device that runs an Operating System that allows such a feat, such as Android and/or iOS, this added content is not added randomly, there are different ways to recognize your environment and act accordingly, one of the most interesting and most used is the image recognition, which allows us to detect basic patterns, compare them with a data repository in our application and "do something" this something is to display more information, either through videos, texts, links, images, etc. Actually, once recognized we can do whatever we want; we are going to introduce this in the next section in a more technical way with real resources.

Augmented Reality consists of enriching the user experience through images and other content through the screen and camera of the device.

Why develop applications in augmented reality: Uses

As we indicated before, this is a technology that has not yet been exploited as it should be, an example of success is Niantic with its Pokemon Go, but you can also create your applications in augmented reality for the following reasons:

  • Promote your products in a unique way: Like all life, the unique, the different, the innovative, people like what is out of the ordinary, what is attractive, see how you can implement this technology in your business; For example, Ikea and its great application to place furniture in your living room:
  • Greater visualization: This is a way of calling another audience, mainly young people who love these things, bringing Augmented Reality closer to your business could attract more young people and Increase your sales.
  • Differentiate yourself from the competition This can be a summary of all the above, one of the virtues is to differentiate yourself from the competition and mark your own path, without always doing the same if not something different.

Knowing Wikitude

At this point you probably already have a clearer idea of Augmented Reality, how to create applications, how it works and what you want to do, so if you are motivated to make your application, the next section is for you. ; In this section we will look at some of Wikitude's features and see how to get started with Wikitude:

Wikitude is not a software to create augmented reality on PC or Mac, it is a library that has a great API that allows us to create rich content as we talked about before for Android, iOS and other very important platforms as you can see on the official site.

Wikitude Licensing

Wikitude is a free SDK for non-commercial projects (you pay otherwise) that allows the creation of Augmented Reality applications with Android and/or IOS as the main technologies and also through an extension in Cordova, Unity among others, which you can consult in the official technology documentation.

Wikitude Features for Augmented Reality

The Wikitude SDK supports other technologies such as geolocation, image recognition, cloud recognition, etc; you can see the rest of the features in: Powerful Features.

But what makes this SDK truly special is that it allows us to use web technologies (HTML, javaScript, CSS) to develop our Augmented Reality applications and the SDK was updated in the latest versions to provide Native support for Android and/or IOS although its main strength is in web technologies as mentioned above; which means that we don't have to handle complex events from Android but something more intuitive like client-side web technologies.

Fundamental terms to be able to work and understand Wikitude

Continuing with the basic terminology of Wikitude, we already talked about AR by the acronym of augmented reality, now we will talk a little about some terms which are essential to develop on this platform, whether on Android or IOS:

  • Target: It is nothing more than a data set extracted from an image that is used by the tracker or tracker when recognizing an image and performing some action such as displaying layers of information, etc.
  • Target Collection: As its name indicates, it is a collection of targets or objectives that associates the data of a set of targets that is used by the tracker to recognize real-world images detected by the device's camera; the extension of the Target Collection is from wtc and it is a file that we generate from the Wikitude portal.
  • ClientTracker: It is the tracker or crawler that analyzes the live camera, and obtains the 2D images, analyzes the Target Collection associated with the project and looks for matches with the image obtained through the device's camera.

Types of Augmented Reality

In this section we will explain the types of augmented reality Wikitude uses when building our Android applications; in general, we can decide to work with an API or web platform, which gives us all the benefits of web development or native, which gives us a more professional appearance in our Augmented Reality application.

JavaScript API (web) for building AR applications with Android

As we mentioned at the beginning, there are two ways in which we can work with Wikitude on Android, the first is through web technologies, which basically consists of calling the architectView in our project and it will notify you about the life cycle of all events. that may occur; the architectView creates a sort of magic lens or surface on the camera where events are handled; To include the architectView in our project we must add the following tag inside a FrameLayout in our layout:

<com.wikitude.architect.ArchitectView android:id="@+id/architectView"
   android:layout_width="fill_parent" android:layout_height="fill_parent"/>

Then we must create pages written in HTML located in the asset folder; that use the ARchitect API from that directory; said file must include:

<script src="architect://architect.js"></script>

In order to use this API we only need to make HTML pages that use this Augmented Reality API (architect) that is made in JavaScript to make our applications work; this way of creating applications with augmented reality is known as (at least that's what they call it in the official documentation) ARchitect worlds; you can check the official documentation on Android JavaScript API.

Native API to create AR applications with Android

The other way that we have is using native code or java code without the need to incorporate web code; This API is somewhat small but quite interesting depending on what we want to do since all the processing of recognized images is resolved in the same Activity or Fragment where we have specified the image recognition or tracking and we can easily perform multiple actions within our activity; you can check the official documentation at Android Native API

Supported Devices to work with Wikitude

Android 4.3 or higher with high pixel density (hdpi) and of course; the equipment must have a rear camera.

Developing Augmented Reality applications with Wikitude

At this point we will give you some resources that you cannot miss if you want to get started, we will give a brief introduction to each one so that you have a clearer idea; the first thing you should do is start from the basics, as we indicated before, the most popular resource (or one of the most popular) with augmented reality is Image Recognition, which means that the device's camera can recognize objects in the world real, but how do you recognize these objects...

1. Building our collection of targets to recognize real-world images

This is done through a collection of targets, what is data about the images and you must supply this through an application on the official Wikidute portal, you must supply it, and in this way Wikitude internally recognizes the images and activates a trigger or an event, whatever you want to call it, so the first thing you need to understand is how to create this package with information from the images and in this post all this is explained:

2. Recognizing the images and acting accordingly: RA

Well, at this point you have your collection of objectives ready, which is generated by Wikitude with the images you supplied, now you must start coding, and work, the first thing you must do is recognize an image; This process is carried out using the device's camera, it begins to analyze its environment in search of matches, something like the QR code which scans your environment for a QR code, here is the same thing only the matches it looks for are based on the images supplied in the previous step from which Wikitude generates a data and then it is used to find matches; for that, we bring you these great resources that go from the images to be used to the complete coding of the experiment:

As you can see, Wikitude uses web technologies, so it will be very easy for you in this way to bring rich content that we use in all the webs, videos, images, texts, make Ajax calls and use jQuery if you wish.

Geographic location and acting accordingly: RA

The other way that we have to work is with the geographic positioning, the famous points of interest or POIs for its acronym in English, this is another great way of working, although you must bear in mind that the points of interest or POIs must be wide It is not a good idea to use POIs for closed points, because this technology works through GPS and it is not infallible, it tends to vary by at least a few meters, so if your idea is to position points in specific centimeters or meters, it may not be great idea, but for everything else you can use the POIs as we explained in this post:

Augmented Reality without web technologies: native Apps

For some time now Wikitude has allowed working with Augmented Reality using web technologies, and yes, the matter is a bit more complex but here we give you the introduction; With this you will be able to do many things as before, but using all the benefits that a native application brings us, a complete integration in our Augmented Reality applications:

And the second part:

Now with these great resources that we bring you, you can start creating your applications with Augmented Reality; We also bring you the latest videos we have on the blog:

Conclusions

In this post we welcome you to the world of Augmented Reality, from what it consists of, to some examples for you to focus better, we give you motivation to use it in your business and we teach you how to create your own Augmented Reality applications. Because AR is here to stay and will be with us much longer, over the years we will see how AR gets more and more polished until it becomes smarter and smarter with better performance.

Andrés Cruz

Desarrollo con Laravel, Django, Flask, CodeIgniter, HTML5, CSS3, MySQL, JavaScript, Vue, Android, iOS, Flutter

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