The type of AR
This factor can have a big impact on AR app development costs. There are two major types of augmented reality:
Marker-based. Such apps can be pretty easy to build, taking one to three months. They need an image like a logo or an icon or any other that is called a marker to trigger pre-programmed AR content after the marker has been scanned by the user. The cost of a marker-based AR app can start from US$1 000 or US$2,000 if simple, 2D images serve as markers. It, however, climbs up when a more sophisticated approach is involved, like object tracking or extended tracking.
Markerless. SLAM (Simultaneous Localization And Mapping) is the underlying technology in markerless AR. It is usually implemented using out-of-the-box software that comes with SDKs, software development kits for AR creation. SLAM-based AR solutions understand the surroundings by getting visual data in the form of point clouds, needing no markers. Today, most of them are based on surface recognition and position tracking for placing 3D objects around the user.
While essentially there’s little cost difference between the two pure types of AR, augmented reality app prices begin to rise for different combinations of AR technologies.
For instance, many SLAM-based apps also use location-based AR technology that relies on data from GPS, compass, accelerometer, gyroscope, or other sensors to add more geolocation context.
Marker-based apps also can be fused with location-based technology to display different AR content in different locations using the same marker. An example here would be an AR-powered brochure of a car maker that shows the user the address of the nearest dealership depending on their location.
On top of that, your app may need advanced AR software, like object tracking for marker-based AR or occlusion handling or multi-user experiences for markerless AR, which will drive up the AR app price. The more complex its functionality is, the more time and niche skills coding will require.
Even a team working on a simple mobile AR app will need experience in 3D modeling and professional-level knowledge of popular SDKs, apart from native/cross-platform mobile development expertise. If you want WebAR that takes users to AR content via a hyperlink, be prepared to spend a few more coins. Though definitely trendy, this technology is new and has technical limitations, requiring top expertise for creating smooth augmented reality experiences.
AR content creation
3D content is a huge challenge for many AR projects which directly affects the cost of augmented reality app development and can make it a pricey affair.
If you are after something simple, you can buy ready-made 3D models for a small fraction of the cost at sites like 3DExport or Turbo Squid.
In our experience, however, more than 50% of AR systems require creating unique 3D graphics from scratch to suit individual business needs. This is also a very common case with industrial giants. They might have a 3D product design ready at hand, but what they usually provide is a model worked out to the smallest screw, which makes its repurposing for AR experiences too complicated.
Or, if your company is in entertainment or sports, you might want to make a volumetric video that records a person three-dimensionally to reconstruct their hologram. This technology, dubbed the next evolution in making video, is also used to bring living experts into the classroom or a corporate or industrial environment for employee training.
Overall, it takes from one to three weeks for a 3D artist to create one 3D model, costing between $1,000 and $3,000.
If you need to build many 3D models, for instance, for products sold on your eсommerce site — a project worth considering with the rising popularity of virtual try-on technology — 3D scanning will save you some money.
An important thing to understand here is that AR content can use more than two-thirds of your total augmented reality project budget if your AR system requires top 3D content.
AR app complexity
Additional functionality increases the cost of developing an augmented reality app.
If your library of 3D models is going to be bulky, you should put aside money for building a custom content management system. For instance, you’ll have to manage a lot of content if you are a bird protection society that wants to publish and update dozens of AR-based fundraising brochures featuring a variety of animated species in different locations and in different seasons. The problem with AR content management tools available in the market is that they don’t allow easy customization or scalability.
Implementation of additional features like payment gateways, sound effects, or chats can add at least one week more to your project timeline, increasing the price tag of your AR app.
Integrations can also make up a substantial component of your augmented reality cost. They should be factored in if your idea is to integrate AR content into your existing products. Or you might want to create interactive experiences through voice or gesture recognition where integrations with third-party services might be necessary.
And don’t forget about the personalization of your AR content, if you want to deliver individually tailored experiences like greeting users by their name or playing their favorite tracks as background music. It will increase your augmented reality cost as well.
The choice of AR tech stack will also influence your augmented reality price. AR SDKs that provide packages of software tools and libraries can be free or paid.
The best-fit SDK for your project will depend on the platform and features of your app, including its recognition and tracking requirements.
Vuforia, Kudan, and Wikitude are probably some of the most popular platforms, with commercial licenses ranging from $99 to €1,990 per month.
For most apps more complex than an animated 3D AR postcard or business card, you are likely to need advanced features, such as object tracking or extended tracking. In this case, a paid platform will be a better option than customizations built from scratch using an open-source library.
Real-world examples: The cost of augmented reality projects in our portfolio
A realistic 3D model of a luxurious superyacht in a yacht harbor
A builder of yachts has approached ITRex to create a 3D model of a luxury high-performance yacht around 50 meters afloat for demonstration to potential buyers, yacht charter services. Their idea was to show the technical capacity and exterior designs of the yacht on the water.
Using SLAM and location-based AR technology, we’ve built a high-precision life-size 3D model that is retrieved by viewers upon pointing a camera to the harbor.
A key challenge in this project was to build a realistic 3D model based on an engineering design provided by the client and resolve lighting issues to seamlessly insert the AR content into the scene.
Overall, this type of an augmented reality app will cost you between US$25,000 and US$35,000, taking two or three months of development.
AR app for the real estate industry
Our client in this AR project was a provider of visualization and marketing services in the real estate industry. They wanted to build an AR/VR solution for real estate firms to help them increase sales through engaging interactive tours of properties they offer.
Apart from VR functionality delivering immersive 360-degree tours of projects, the mobile app we’ve built uses markerless augmented reality. This technology displays compelling 3D models of buildings on any surface, like a table or the floor. It also gives virtual representations of floor plans and allows rotating and zooming in models for viewing details.
Creating the high-precision 3D models from scratch, along with a custom content management system that enables updates in the property listings, was perhaps one of the biggest challenges in this project. These efforts took about 80% of the total augmented reality cost.
Due to the custom content management functionality, cost and time estimates for such AR solutions will be higher than above: around US$50,000 and four months, respectively.
Personal store manager
To delight customers and reduce human interactions with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, an electronics retailer turned to ITRex AR experts for assistance with creating an AR solution that would enable customers to retrieve AR-powered information about products on the go.
The platform we’ve built uses WebAR technology, unlocking access to product details and best deals in AR through a web browser. A customer only needs to open the retailer’s site, click a link and point their camera on displays to get the information.
An in-built AI chatbot communicating through voice provides accurate responses to customers’ product queries in real time without the need for them to interact with living consultants.
A significant portion of the AR solution development effort focused on creating custom WebAR object tracking, as well as building an enterprise-grade content management system that the client needed to handle different AR content across its stores in different locations and promptly update it with the release of new product versions.
The cost of such augmented reality apps can start from US$200,000. Their development takes around six months.
Augmented reality is viewed as a technology still in its infancy but with a very bright future ahead.
AR is already pushing new frontiers in healthcare, engineering, and live events, the industries where the highest growth in revenue from AR solutionsis expected in the next couple of years. Also, we should prepare for AR advances in retail and education as companies are struggling to deliver unique and engaging experiences to younger, tech-innate generations and provide remote cooperation options.
According to a recent report, the global AR market is forecast to grow from $12.56 billion in 2020 to $85.47 billion by 2026 at a double-digit CAGR of 37.66%.
Since augmented reality exploded in popularity with the Pokémon Go launch in 2016, we’ve barely scratched the surface. This will change, as AR technologies are advancing and becoming pretty much affordable today.