Although Overly app is our core product, we offer various custom AR solutions to our clients from across the globe. Amongst markerless creations, games and gimmicky experiences, one of the most frequent requests we receive is the creation of new marker-based augmented reality apps. And while I will talk you through a couple of instances where this is a reasonable investment, my blog will reveal that most of the time, it is not the best idea.
Understanding the virtual infrastructure required to create and host a marker-based augmented reality app is the only way to evaluate if you can and should invest resources in such a project — and if you must, what’s your best option.
What costs will you incur to create your own marker-based augmented reality application?
Besides your own time and project management resources, you’ll be left with quite a lot of support that will need to be outsourced or hired in-house.
AR app development
The first and most obvious expense is the application development, which for a quality project that you will be proud to showcase and use will start at €10,000 (for a simple app). Depending on the app’s features, the price can only grow from here.
It would help if you did not look at cutting costs at this stage, and it is worth teaming up with well-regarded agencies and industry experts, who will not merely bring your idea to fruition but rather trash it apart in discussions with marketers, designers, developers, and user experience experts. It will then be put together to the highest standard, ensuring it meets your goals. While you may be a leading name in your field, you must be ready to admit when something is not your specialty and let experts take your idea and build on it.
App updates and edits
Once you have your own app, the work will continue to pile up. If you collaborate with an agency, you will, most probably, benefit from a two-year warranty (or other period), where the agency will correct any mistakes that have incurred due to their work.
However, the warranty does not cover updates that need to be implemented due to third-party services, such as Google Play, Apple Store, phone operating system updates, which are unavoidable and also – unpredictable.
In addition to third-party updates, you’ll need to ensure that your app doesn’t go out of date, you will need to make changes and update it, at least once a year. So once you get your app, it’s a never-ending story, similar to your website or social media accounts.
Depending on your partner agency, the hourly rate for modest businesses will start around €100, or you may calculate expenses on project-basis.
Cloud server hosting for app data
Depending on the amount of data you’re going to retrieve through your marker-based app, you’re most likely to need a data hosting server. If your app is straightforward to use with limited content, you may be able to host the information within the app itself. So, when a user downloads your app, they would download all of the content onto their phones. The AR content in this scenario can be hosted on both a data server or downloaded to the phone.
If the data server isn’t used, the app, including all content assets, cannot be larger than 100MB. There is a way around it to create an app that meets the 100MB size limit, and once a person opens it, ask them to download additional assets to their phone.
The third and much better option is to create the app up to 100MB in size and host the content on a VPS (Virtual Private Server) and stream content to phone when necessary, meaning there are no extra steps for a user to access it, and people do not have to clog up their phones with lots of content. This will also allow you to consider featuring great visualizations, animations, and 3D models.
If there isn’t a lot of data, you can probably get away with €10 to €20 per month. But ensure that it provides the security and quality you need. For publishers and larger corporations, it is almost a given that larger and safer data service hosting platforms will be required. Again, in terms of their resources, maybe €100 per month will not seem so much.
When picking a VPS, you must be clear on the market you want to target if it is your local area, a smaller host with a good reputation will do. Still, if your app is global, but your headquarters are in Belgium per se, your server needs to provide excellent global balancing, so the content loads just as quickly in Brussels as in LA.
There is no point in considering setting up your own physical servers, this will cost you much more, and you’ll need to ensure their maintenance and security, which are all extra expenses.
Cloud recognition service
One thing that businesses often don’t think about when it comes to creating their AR apps is a cloud or offline recognition service. There is no need to contemplate creating your own. It will take a couple of years and several million euros. However, depending on the size and type of your app, there are a few pricing options at your disposal.
If your app is going to feature little content and you are planning to update it once a year, for example, you could use an offline recognition service.This may work in smaller art galleries, where only a few exhibits are brought to life each year or similar circumstances. However, as it is still a commercial solution, your expenses for an offline recognition service will start at €500 lifetime or annual fee.
However, larger businesses will have to turn to cloud recognition services online. The two most popular global providers for both offline and online AR recognition are Vuforia and Wikitude.
Vuforia provides excellent quality that compares to no other, which is why it is only reasonable that it is the most expensive solution. What would make up the costs for you are:
- License fee for using the service (set fee depending on your turnover)
- Fee to use the cloud recognition service (set fee against the number of projected marker recognitions and additional expenses for any excess)
- Revenue sharing (a set percentage of your annual turnover)
Wikitude is a bit more friendly for smaller businesses and doesn’t require revenue sharing. However, its recognition service is a bit slower, and the tracking isn’t as stable as with Vuforia. The costs you’ll have to incur with this service are:
- Set license fee for using the service
- Fixed fee for cloud recognition service (includes projected marker recognitions and additional expenses for any excess)
- That’s it. No revenue sharing required.
In a nutshell, Vuforia is very pricey, but there is no competition with quality. Wikitude is more affordable, but its image tracking quality is not as stable. But this could change with the next update. Either way, if you need cloud recognition for your app, you will be looking at approximately € 10,000 to get you going.
As you Google around, you will find alternatives to these services, such as MAXST, EasyAR or others. Still, if you’re after quality, you will not want to bet your money on relatively new providers. Some services are also not safe to use in Europe and the USA, so it is a must that you check this before signing any contracts with lesser-known agencies. Of course, as time goes on, these businesses may become strong competitors to the two leading companies. Still, that’s not the case as of today.
Integrating AR within an existing app
Another option is to incorporate augmented reality features within your existing app. If your original app has been made modular and is qualitative, you actually will be looking at lower development costs as the core app infrastructure will already be there. However, the above-mentioned expenses, such as cloud recognition service, data hosting, maintenance, will remain.
An example of this actually comes from Burger King with its excellent marketing campaign. Burger King has integrated AR within its app, but that is the kind of business, which can afford to pay all of the mentioned fees and pay for cloud recognition service.
Content Management System
To ensure the processes run smoothly between your app, the server, and the cloud recognition service, you will also need a content management system. This will be necessary for people to update and upload new content, track statistics, set up campaigns, etc. It is a similar admin panel as a website would have, such as WordPress.
Again, depending on complexities, such a system will start at €10,000 to create. Then you will need an in-house IT expert or an agency to ensure it works. Again, any updates and corrections will incur more costs.
In-house team that understands the AR app
While an AR app may be an idea of the business development or marketing team, you will, regardless of the size of your business, need to recruit an in-house IT expert or sign up a partner agency to ensure that the whole process runs smoothly. They will need to monitor the server, the app, the cloud recognition service, and CMS, to respond quickly and delegate tasks to the correct parties if something needs fixing. A marketing person may not have the required tech and IT knowledge to be able to respond to these issues alone quickly.
Marketing your AR app
Last but not least, one of the considerable costs when developing a white-label AR app is marketing it to its users. A whole launch campaign may be necessary, and the prices will pile up as the launch spreads across borders. Based on your current marketing budget, you can evaluate if you would have a space for any additional investment in the area.
AR Foundation for demo purposes: ARKit & ARCore
Frequently we hear about Apple and Android augmented reality advances, which work with both marker-based and markerless technologies. While these solutions are excellent for demo projects and may provide an all-round solution in the future, currently, the quality is not very good, and these services do not feature cloud recognition.
AR content for apps developed within AR foundation will have to be part of your app’s assets.
Using a commercial augmented reality app
The reason why businesses want to create their apps is that they do not want to feature their AR partner’s branding within their content. This is especially relevant for big brands, where they have concise design guidelines.
However, the financial savings for this approach are considerable, and the ability to utilize your AR partner’s expertise for marketing the experience and generating engagement will add enormous value. Third-party apps are already in the market, and users may already have had an experience through your provider’s app before, which means that the audience may have already had the app on their phone.
Another cost-saving feature of such collaboration is that the partner covers all costs of app development, hosting, data service, and cloud recognition. Of course, charges may be higher if you choose custom solutions, create games, etc. as developers will need to get involved. But overall, financial benefits outweigh any doubts.
I hope this blog has highlighted the key financial considerations you need to take into account before creating your own marker-based augmented reality app. Do let me know if you have any questions or need more details. You can also leave a comment below to share your experience and add to discussion.