Web AR: Web-Based Augmented Reality for the real world

Web AR

Augmented Reality and Virtual reality are not new concepts. They have been around since 2008, with most commercial applications appearing between 2008 and 2012. Although it’s been over a decade, the technology did not explode as expected.

However, like every revolutionary technology, after close to 15 years, AR is starting to make significant impacts with implementations in applications such as Google Maps and Microsoft through Hololens, which integrate AR to offer exciting interactions. Among these developments is WebAR.

Taking this into account, What is WebAR? Is it a new concept? How does WebAR work? In this article, we’ll take a dive into WebAR, and when you are done reading, you’ll have a solid grasp of what WebAR is.

What is Web AR?

Understanding the concept of Web AR

Web AR refers to integrating augmented reality technologyad into web-based platforms and applications. It enables users to augment the real world with virtual content directly through their web browsers without installing a standalone AR app. With Web AR, anyone with a compatible device and web browser can access AR experiences effortlessly.

What is Web AR
Image Credit: unitear

Advantages of using Web AR

Based on technical implementations of web environments, WebAR offers you several advantages:

  1. There is no need to install memory-consuming WebAR apps that are mostly difficult to understand and use.
  1. With high-speed access to the virtual content, you only need to load up the link and start interacting with the AR. 
  1. It requires a web browser only to work, this allows compatibility with almost any modern mobile device.
  1. Developers can easily tweak the content or product features since they have to compile or moderate newer versions, and users do not have to install App updates.
  1. Lastly, a web browser allows businesses to collect statistics, analyze user behaviors, and track various metrics based on which they can make crucial business decisions.

How does Web AR work?

Exploring the technology behind Web AR

As the name suggests, WebAR works on web browsers leveraging web-based technologies. To make it work, WebAR relies on the following components:

  1.    Gyroscope and Accelerometer: These sensors are your digital compass and motion tracker, ensuring your device knows exactly where it is in space.
  1. Camera Sensor: Your device’s camera is the window through which WebAR interacts with the real world.
  1. Computer Vision: This sophisticated technology is the secret sauce behind WebAR, allowing it to recognize and interpret the physical environment.

So, what’s the enchantment that unfolds behind a seemingly ordinary web page when you engage with WebAR?

Here’s a simplified breakdown:

  1. Triggering the AR Experience: It all begins with a trigger, a web link, a marker, or a QR code found on anything from a business card to a poster. 
  1. Accessing the Camera Stream: Once you click that link or scan the QR code, your camera springs into action. It’s when you grant access to your camera feed after loading the web page.
  1. Activating the 3D Scene: A 3D scene within the web page awakens with the camera stream in play. This scene must sync seamlessly with the position of your device’s camera.
  1. Mastering Orientation: Now, we enter the realm of orientation, where the magic of blending digital and real worlds happens. This is technically known as “Six Degrees of Freedom (6DoF),” allowing WebAR to track objects in the camera’s view and superimpose AR elements onto them.
  1. Lastly – Scene Rendering: The culmination of this process is the rendering of the scene. It’s here that AR elements are seamlessly integrated into your real-world view, driven and stored by a cloud-based content management system or AR Cloud. This final act is where your interactions with the web page come to life, and the AR elements respond accordingly.

Why are QR codes important in WebAR experiences? 

QR codes play a significant role in Web AR experiences. They act as markers or triggers that initiate the AR content when scanned. QR codes can be easily generated and printed, allowing businesses to integrate them into augmented reality advertising and marketing materials and physical spaces.

Users can scan the QR code using their smartphone’s camera, and the corresponding AR experience will be accessed through their web browser.

QR codes for Web AR
Image Credit: wear-studio

The benefits of Web AR platforms for businesses

Enhancing customer engagement with Web AR

Web AR offers businesses a powerful tool for enhancing customer engagement. Businesses can provide interactive and immersive content that captivates their audience by integrating AR experiences directly into their websites or online platforms. 

For example, an e-commerce company can use Web AR to allow customers to virtually try on clothes or visualize furniture in their own space before purchasing.

Analytics and measuring the success of Web AR campaigns

WebAR gives you deep and wide insights on how your AR content or product is performing with the help of analytics tools such as Deep Links and Google Analytics. These statistics are extremely useful when tracking and reporting AR experience, sharpening your endeavors to enhance UX, as well as making crucial business decisions. 

Affordability and easy to set up

Compared to App-based AR, WebAR saves valuable resources for development, maintenance, and regularly updating the content or product. Additionally, WebAR saves you time by bypassing the app development process – which hinders most businesses from launching. 

Deploying WebAR experiences is also easy and fast. All you need to do is generate a 3D model of your product, upload it to a 3D platform like Vossel, and publish it on your platform. As easy as that.

WebAR enables higher customer reach.

Since WebAR is easy, fast, and cost-effective to deploy, it gets businesses to market quickly. Moreover, WebAR gives you access to over 7.26 billion iOS and Android smartphones across the globe, giving your brand a wider reach than most AR-based Apps would.

Compatibility of Web AR with different browsers

One feature that makes WebAR a better choice is its compatibility with almost all web browsers, including Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, and Safari. However, it’s important to note that not all browsers support Web AR’s same features and capabilities. 

Developers must consider browser compatibility while creating Web AR experiences to ensure optimal performance and functionality across different platforms.

Comparison: Web-based AR vs. App-based AR

Advantages and drawbacks of Web AR

Web AR has its share of advantages and drawbacks compared to app-based AR. 
One of the key advantages of Web AR is its accessibility – users can access AR experiences directly through their web browsers without the need to download and install a dedicated AR app. This ease of access increases the reach and potential audience for a Web AR experience. 

Additionally, Web AR allows for faster distribution and updates, as changes can be made on the web server instantly without requiring users to download an updated version.

Benefits and limitations of app-based AR

In contrast, app-based AR offers certain benefits that Web AR may lack. For instance, since App-based AR platforms are installed natively into devices, they have direct access to the device’s hardware (with permissions authorized), allowing them to leverage the hardware’s full capabilities. 

Additionally, app-based AR can offer better performance and stability since the app is specifically designed for AR interactions. However, app-based AR faces the challenge of being resource and cost-intensive.

Choosing the right approach for your AR project

When deciding the best way to leverage AR for your business, it’s best to consider what you want to achieve with AR. If wider accessibility, cost-effectiveness, and faster distribution are the priorities, then Web AR may be the right choice. 

On the other hand, if the project requires advanced features, device-specific functionalities, and an optimized AR experience, app-based AR might be more suitable. Assessing the target audience, budget, and desired AR experience will help make an informed decision.

Popular Web AR frameworks and platforms

WebAR development is diverse and flexible, with different platforms offering different capabilities and features. Here is a list of some of the top WebAR frameworks.

1. AWE

AWE is a user-friendly, no-code platform designed to create WebAR experiences. Even with limited technical knowledge, you can effortlessly bring your augmented reality visions to life. For those with coding skills, AWE offers the flexibility to extend functionalities using JavaScript and CSS. Moreover, AWE provides analytics, allowing you to monitor the performance of your AR applications.

2. Vuforia

Vuforia is a specialized enterprise-focused company that offers augmented reality solutions spanning various use cases, including WebAR. While it may not be the ideal choice for every project, it becomes attractive when scalability and robust AR solutions are imperative for your enterprise.

If you are seeking a high-powered solution tailored to the specific demands of your business, Vuforia is certainly worth considering.

3. Argon.js

Argon is a JavaScript framework that aims to simplify adding augmented reality technologies to web applications.  It handles app and web development, providing you with market and image-tracking features. 

One distinguishing feature of Argon.js is its reliance an a rather technical system that requires you to manually translate the virtual product into graphics coordinates for optimal performance. 

4. serves as a valuable helper .js library, primarily aimed at creating AR Web experiences from scratch. Coupled with WebARonARCore and WebARonARKit, it empowers developers to dive into experimental WebAR mobile development for iOS and Android. acts as a guiding force, simplifying the workflow for your mobile WebAR development endeavors.

5. ZapWorks

ZapWorks is a comprehensive Web AR platform that allows businesses and developers to create stunning AR experiences. ZapWorks has an intuitive UI that allows you to drag-and-drop features as well as a wide range of customizations with pre-built templates.

With ZapWorks, users can easily create 3D models, interactive animations, and immersive experiences without extensive coding knowledge.

Creating an immersive Web AR experience

Designing captivating Web AR content is essential to create an immersive user experience. Consider the following tips:

  1. Planning and Creativity: Start with a comprehensive plan that outlines your target audience, campaign objectives, and creative vision. This initial step lays the foundation for all your subsequent decisions.
  1. Platform Selection: Choose an AR platform designed to streamline WebAR development. Make sure the platform you choose has tools like surface tracking and image recognition, saving you valuable time and resources compared to building from scratch.
  1. Asset Creation: Craft your 3D digital assets with a focus on balance. Strive for harmony between your creative vision and bandwidth limitations. To ensure optimal performance, prioritize low-poly art assets and engaging simple animations.
  1. Assembly: Armed with your plan, chosen platform, and ready-to-use assets, commence the development of your WebAR experience within the selected platform.
  1. Testing: Rigorously test your creation across major mobile platforms and web browsers. If possible, explore the experience on various network connections (Wi-Fi, 4G, 3G, etc.) to ensure seamless functionality.
  1. Distribution: Export the final experience and host it on your own servers. Regardless of your choice, sharing your WebAR masterpiece is effortless — simply distribute the host URL via QR code or any preferred method.

Wrapping Up

In contrast to most technologies, WebAR is an explosive yet limited technology – it currently does not have a wide audience or presence. However, as progress continues, all kinds of AR experiences will eventually evolve into everyday interactions between businesses and their customers. 

But one thing is certain: WebAR is not going anywhere anytime soon. With the increased manufacturing of smartphones and adoption of AR-compatible hardware in various devices, we are yet to experience the true impact of Augmented Reality, especially with WebAR. 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Q: What is Web AR?

A: Web AR, short for web-based augmented reality, refers to the technology that allows users to experience augmented reality through a web-based browser without downloading a specific app.

Q: How does Web AR work?

A: Web AR works by utilizing the camera on a user’s smartphone or device to overlay virtual objects or information onto the real world. It leverages web-based technology to allow you to create virtual experiences directly through a mobile browser.

Q: Can I use Web AR on any device?

A: No, not all devices are compatible with Web AR. However, most modern smartphones and tablets with a web browser, especially those running iOS and Android operating systems, should be able to support Web AR experiences.

Q: Do I need to download an app to use Web AR?

A: No, one of the advantages of Web AR is that you don’t need to download a specific app to use it. You can access the augmented reality experiences directly through a mobile web browser on your device.

Q: What are some examples of Web AR?

A: There are numerous examples of Web AR experiences, including virtual try-ons for clothing, 3D product demonstrations, interactive educational tools, immersive gaming experiences, and much more.

Q: How do I create Web AR experiences?

A: To create a WebAR experience, you must first decide on your target audience and content objectives and have a creative vision. With this in place, you can leverage the various WebAR platforms to create interactive 3D content and integrate them into your web application.

Q: Can Web AR be used for marketing purposes?

A: Absolutely; unlike conventional marketing tools, WebAR will allow your customers to interact with your content or product in a more immersive and personalized way. 

Q: Does Web AR support analytics?

A: Yes, many Web AR platforms offer analytics capabilities, allowing you to track user engagement, behavior, and other valuable metrics. This data can help you measure the success of your AR campaigns and make informed decisions for future improvements.

Q: Can I use Web AR on any web-based platform?

A: Web AR can be used on any platform that supports web-based technologies, such as mobile web browsers. It is not limited to a specific operating system or device.

Q: Is Web AR only limited to smartphones?

A: No, while smartphones are the most common devices used for Web AR, they can also be experienced on tablets and other devices with a web browser and camera capabilities.

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