Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality – AR and VR, have gained immense popularity in recent years. A huge number of applications for educational, entertainment, commercial and other purposes are being developed.

The main factor of improving the development of these technologies was the coronavirus pandemic – businesses began to actively move to the online format, so there was a need to improve content for interactive interaction with customers. VR apps allow users to immerse themselves in an artificially created environment. AR brings new dimensions to the real world by adding layers of information on top of the physical environment that can be viewed on an Android or iOS device.

VR provides developers with the ability to embed 360-degree VR images and videos into websites for display on desktops and mobile devices. AR is also used in a wide variety of industries: real estate, interior design, cars and transportation, healthcare and medicine, education, games, advertising and others. VR / AR can also be embedded in native Android and iOS apps.

Let’s consider how VR / AR is implemented on your website or mobile application.

AR value for a website or app

Augmented reality will be a valuable addition to many existing web pages. This technology can help people learn from educational sites and allow potential buyers to visualize items in their home while shopping.

AR technology allows users to place a life-size image of an object as if it were in fact. Once placed, the image remains on the selected surface, is sized as if the actual element were on that surface, and allows the user to move around, as well as move closer to or further from it. This gives viewers a deeper understanding of the subject than is possible with a 2D image.

This technology is popular in choosing the furniture – using AR, you can visually “put” the selected item in your living room or another room and see if it fits well into the surrounding interior, whether it has enough space. In the same way, you can “try on” other furniture from the catalog.

AR is also reflected in the gaming sphere – the famous game with Pokémon catching is built on the basis of this technology. The AR worlds demonstrate how effective user interaction can be and how information accessible.

Virtual reality is a more complex technology, to use the VR, you need to use additional devices – glasses, helmets, special gloves. While AR can only provide visual and auditory experience.

VR technology can and is already being used in gaming and entertainment applications, medical, educational, commercial and even military programs. The first stage in the development of this technology was observed back in the 60s of the 20th century, when special virtual reality helmets were developed for the military.However, at that time it was still not a full-fledged virtual reality, since, based on modern definitions, it looked more like augmented reality.

Since 2013, AR technology has already been strictly defined as a system that performs 3 functions:

  • Combining natural environment with virtual assets;
  • The ability to interact in real time;
  • Accurate volumetric registration of both natural and virtual objects.

 

Thus, it is this combination of real and virtual that best defines AR technology and its differences from virtual. Despite the seemingly clear division (virtual reality seeks to replace the natural environment, while augmented reality is simply to supplement), at times in some projects these concepts can blur and overlap, as a result of which it becomes quite difficult to determine their fundamental difference. However, adding AR tends to be more desirable as site and app owners seek to expand rather than replace existing user experiences.

A key feature can also be considered the fact that AR intersects with search engine optimization, which is noteworthy for the creators and owners of their own sites. Indeed, AR content will improve overall on-page metrics such as time spent on page and engagement, which will increase the efficiency of SEO companies. However, when adding AR / VR content to your site or application, you should also take into account that their rating is directly influenced by the speed of work, page load, and these indicators may decrease due to the use of such complex and cumbersome technologies. It is important to make sure during implementation that such content does not affect the performance of the site, does not slow down the loading speed or degrade its performance.

USDZ format 

Before diving into the topic of embedding AR on a website, it’s worth touching on the USDZ format. This abbreviation stands for Universal Scene Description and is usually the standard for adding AR capabilities to 3D content. In the case of Apple devices, files of this format have been replaced by the reality and .rcproject files, as well as a special code.

AR capabilities for iOS and macOS will depend on this format in the future. Although Google took its steps in this regard by relying on Chromium Canary, USDZ remains the gold standard today. 

Adding AR content to the site:

  • To implement AR / VR content, in essence, you need the following:
  • 3D models in the previously mentioned USDZ format;
  • Functional website with support for augmented or virtual reality technologies;

The possibility of embedding and modification.The creation of a volumetric model is carried out using any software suitable for these purposes, for example Vectary. By the way, this software is very easy to use, as it allows you to export models and at the same time convert ordinary files to USDZ. With this program, you can open or create your own model from scratch. If you do not have the skills in 3D modeling, you can contact our specialists who will do everything you need for you.

In the program, you can select export options, including file format and maximum texture size, and after export you will receive a link to download the final file. Also, the specified software will provide the code for embedding the virtual and AR content viewer into your site or application. You need to copy it to the clipboard and continue working.

If you are using other software at this stage, you can still use Vectary in parallel for some actions. As a result, embedding AR content is about copying and pasting software-generated code into your website’s HTML and application code.

For the introduction of augmented reality content, and in particular for modeling, there are other programs:

ScetchUP is a very famous browser based option that offers power and flexibility. It boasts a smooth learning curve and an extensive library of custom models.

Meshmixer is an equally convenient and widespread option, which is more focused on 3D printing. However, it provides all the functionality a beginner might need, from modeling tools to analysis and optimization tools.

Blender. An equally well-known and popular option, which is quite popular in the Netherlands, for example. Its unique interface can be challenging at first, but it also has a lot of power and versatility. Plus, it’s completely free.

FreeCAD. Unlike previous programs, this one is likely to be quite difficult for beginners. However, this open source solution offers powerful modeling tools and many plugins, modules, and other supporting tools for free.

Leopoly. An effective and easy-to-learn program that, like Meshmixer, specializes in 3D printing. It is specially designed for educational purposes, so it is perfect for beginners.

After creating a model using any of the above programs, you need to convert it to a file with the desired format – USDZ.

Separately, you should pay attention to the creation of a website, if you do not have one yet. This can be done using any CMS known today. Consider the most popular content management systems that you can use to create your own web resource with augmented or virtual reality.

WordPress. This system has been operating since 2003 and today it provides more than 40% of the entire Internet. In addition to its enormous potential through architecture and plugin library, it offers an easy process for building websites. They call their build process “no code, no tutorials, no limits,” providing a wide variety of topics to choose from. You can develop a design literally without a designer, since their editors allow you to make modifications literally in one click.

SquareSpace. An equally well-known website and hosting provider that offers a large number of customizable templates. Besides website building, this company provides analytics, SEO, e-commerce, custom domains, social media integration, making it versatile.

When developing mobile applications that support embedding of virtual and augmented reality, it is also worth paying attention to the devices for which it will be available, since not every modern phone will be able to open AR / VR content.

Best Practices for Embedding AR / VR in Apps and Websites

The advantages of WebAR services for online trading, online search, and face recognition are undeniable. But how do you embed this into a website? The answer lies in a few simple steps.

Compatible browser. Start with a WebXR compatible browser. If you are using Android, make sure your system is ARCore compatible with the latest version of Chrome or Firefox. For iOS users, the choice is AR Quick Look, an extension to enable ARKit for users in Safari.

A-Frame. This evolving powerful technology from Mozilla allows users to create 3D scenes along with a virtual reality experience. All it takes is a few HTML tags. A-Frame is built on top of WebGL, Three.js and Custom Elements. A-Frame is equipped with a number of plugins that make it even more attractive as it supports simple syntax.

Adding AR support to the Internet. The last step is also one of the easiest. Just load the three .ar.js and frame-ar files and then add the ar attribute to the 3D scene.

As the appeal of AR to websites around the world has grown exponentially in recent years, we’ll take a closer look at what makes WebAR solutions so popular.

Depth API

Intelligent reality technologies like augmented reality make use of plane detection, although that’s just one of the reasons that make it smart. The device on which AR is used must be able to understand its surroundings. It can do this through recognition of its position and perception of depth. This helps to give AR visuals a realistic feel where objects are not displayed simply pasted onto the device’s screen.

Correct perception of light

Lighting plays a critical role in AR. Simply put, the right lighting can create or ruin AR visuals. Fusion with the natural environment is an important function of augmented reality objects, allowing them to successfully present the realism of augmented reality. When embedding AR into a website, you can use ambient lighting information to make the user experience more immersive and realistic.

Examples of using virtual and AR

The potential of these technologies is enormous; many world famous companies are already using them in their projects.

DeLaval, a manufacturer of farm equipment, uses AR to showcase its products to potential customers.

Demonstration of Delaval equipment right on the office table. A source.

Car showroom Vroom has developed a VR app that immerses the buyer in a fun test drive process. With its help, you can virtually “ride” on any of the presented cars and evaluate them from the inside.

The world famous brand Toyota has created a combined reality application that allows real cars to be equipped with different components: from the battery and exhaust system to the engine.

The company “AUDI” also equipped several dealerships with virtual test drives, which made it possible to improve the quality of customer service and make their experience of communicating with the chosen car even more vivid.

The Ikea company offered customers a virtual “fitting” of furniture and interior accessories using augmented reality technology. Thanks to AR, they can see how the assembled furniture will look like in their apartment, and they are ideally integrated into the interior and obey external factors – for example, lighting, and also fully correspond to the size of the surrounding objects. In order to use this application, the smartphone must support this technology. The image accuracy is 98%, which makes the image very realistic and almost indistinguishable from real furniture in the room. In addition, according to the developers, it will be possible to reduce the number of refusals from the purchase – the client is more likely to agree to the purchase if he has already visually assessed how good the thing will look in his home.

As already mentioned, virtual and AR technologies have found application not only in commercial, but also in other areas of life. For example, back in 2015, Disney developed a coloring app that allows children to color in 3D images of fairy-tale characters. Colorful visualization captivates and develops the imagination by presenting models in real time.

AR / VR technologies are also used for educational purposes. For example, in the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History, such an application appeared back in 2015. With AR, every visitor could feel like they were next to dinosaurs, and the soundtrack imitated their natural sounds. Despite the imperfect and rather limited level of interaction that this technology provided in this case (after all, it was back in 2015, when it was at a rather primitive level of development), it still made it possible to present visitors with a new interesting experience, incomparable with flat images in 2D … As AR technology develops, interaction will improve – a number of other stimuli may be added besides visual and auditory (tactile, olfactory).

An example of augmented reality in a museum – the program wraps skeletons behind glass in flesh, demonstrating what live animals look like to which a particular skeleton belongs. A source.

From a military training perspective, VR and AR are still of strategic importance, which is why the US Army is actively using AR / VR applications to improve the efficiency of training soldiers. In particular, this approach improves spatial awareness, helps fighters navigate the terrain, and provides the necessary conditions for training recruits.

In conclusion, it should be noted that the implementation of AR / VR is not a very difficult process in itself. Much more complicated is the idea that will form the basis for designing an alternative reality. If you need help adding AR / VR content to a website or app, or creating a new concept for commercial, entertainment, educational or other purposes, you can always contact our specialists.

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