What Are the ARCore and ARKit Augmented Reality Frameworks?

ARCore and ARKit are Google and Apple’s respective Augmented Reality frameworks for bringing more AR apps to their platforms. They use the smartphone’s camera to add interactive elements to an existing environment.

What is Augmented Reality?

Augmented Reality—generally abbreviated as “AR”—is a real world view that has been augmented digitally to add interactive elements or otherwise change visual perception.

In simpler terms, Augmented Reality adds computer generated elements to your environment, which you can see through a hardware layer—like your smartphone’s camera. While AR used to require a headset or some other form of visual in-between, that is no longer necessary.

The most popular and well-known use of AR to date is probably Niantic’s Pokemon Go. It uses a smartphone’s camera to see the general area, then uses AR to add Pokemon to the environment.

But Pokemon Go was ahead of the curve, as it was released before Google and Apple built their respective Augmented Reality frameworks. In other words: as cool as it was at the time, it wasn’t able to take advantage of the tools that are now available on Android and iOS.

What are ARCore and ARKit?

ARCore is Android’s AR framework, while ARKit is the same thing for Apple’s iOS. These frameworks let developers tap into advanced AR tools to allow for a better, more immersive, and otherwise realistic AR experience.

For example, using these tools, developers can add things like advanced motion tracking to their AR apps, which allows devices to better understand their relationship to the environment. Similarly, tools like ARCore and ARKit let phones judge the size and position of things like tables and chairs for a more realistic feel in any given environment.

Google describes ARCore like this:

Fundamentally, ARCore is doing two things: tracking the position of the mobile device as it moves, and building its own understanding of the real world.

While Apple uses different verbiage to describe ARKit, the point is still the same, and Google’s description is true for both platforms.

Cool, So Can I Check out ARCore/ARKit?

Yes! If you’d like to see what AR apps are available for your particular smartphone platform, here’s a list of a few examples for each.

Android Apps that use ARCore

Before we get into the list, it’s worth noting that ARCore is only available on certain devices right now. Here’s a full list, per Google:

If you’re running one of the compatible handsets, here are some of the best apps you can try that are using the ARCore Framework:

There is food walking around my office
  • AR Stickers: If you have a Google Pixel or newer Nexus device, you can check out AR Stickers in the camera app right now. Simply open the camera, open the menu, and choose AR Stickers. Have fun!
  • Ikea PlaceUsing ARCore, Ikea Place allows users to see how furniture will work in a space before buying it. So cool.
  • Amazon AR ViewVery similar to Ikea Place, but with Amazon products. This is part of the Amazon Shopping app—just tap the camera button in the upper right, swipe up, and choose AR View.
  • AR Mole: It’s like a mole bopping game for your phone. Very simple, but fun display of what ARCore can do.

ARCore is still relatively new, so more (and better) uses will show up as time goes on .

iOS Apps that use ARKit

Spider-Man came over. He ate the food.

Much like with Android, iOS devices that use ARKit are limited. Apple requires an A9, A10, or A11 chip (as well as iOS 11), so the following phones apply:

  • iPhone 6s and 6s Plus
  • iPhone 7 and 7 Plus
  • iPhone SE
  • iPhone 8 and 8 Plus
  • iPhone X
  • iPad Pro 1st and 2nd Gen (all sizes)
  • iPad (2017)

If you’re on board and updated, you’re ready to rock and roll. Here are some apps to check out:

  • Ikea Place: It’s not just for Android! Put furniture in your house and see what it looks like.
  • Amazon AR ViewYep, same thing.
  • Holo: Add holograms into the environment and take pictures. Kind of like AR Stickers on Pixel/Nexus phones.
  • Fitness AR: Turn Strava rides into awesome looking 3D maps, then place them in your environment so you can walk around and look at them. So cool!
  • ShARk: Sharks in your living room. Do it.

As time goes on, we’re going to see a lot more apps show up that utilize AR—both for practical purposes (like Ikea Place) and for fun (like Pokemon Go).

Cameron Summerson is a die-hard Android fan, Chicago Bulls fanatic, metalhead, and cyclist. When he's not pounding keys here at HTG, you can find him spending time with his wife and kids, spinning legs on the bike, chugging away on the 6-string, or being disappointed in the Bulls.