As one of the leading 3D engines for augmented reality development, a new release of Unity is a significant event that carries the potential to facilitate huge leaps forward in AR content creation.
Unity version 2019.1, arriving about a month ahead of the 2018 edition, makes a few small steps forward in the AR department, but it's progress nonetheless.
In this edition of Unity, the Scriptable Render Pipeline (SRP) and Lightweight Render Pipeline (LWRP) move out of preview and are now ready for prime time. Introduced in Unity 2018.3, SRP helps developers optimize their apps based on hardware profiles, while LWRP is an SRP preset designed to run high-quality 3D content, particularly AR and VR content, on mobile devices.
Speaking of AR Foundation, that has also not graduated from preview just yet. However, during its recent GDC keynote, the company disclosed that the public release of AR Foundation would come in 2019.2.
"AR Foundation lets Unity developers quickly get started building AR projects," said Thomas Krogh-Jacobsen, senior product marketing manager for Unity, in a blog post.
"You choose which features to include in your experiences while building just once to deploy across both ARKit and ARCore devices. Available in Preview from the Package Manager, it wraps ARKit and ARCore low-level APIs into a cohesive framework that also includes additional features to help developers overcome the biggest AR development challenges."
Unity also has samples of AR Foundation projects available, including an example for LWRP, available for developers on GitHub.
In addition, Unity 2019.1 brings a preview of AR Remote, a new feature that enables developers to view the fruits of their AR labor directly on a target device instead of having to export a full build of an application. (In layman's terms, AR Remote is to AR app development as print preview is to printing a document.)
One other notable improvement in Unity 2019.1, though, is support for Magic Leap One development in Unity. Previously, Magic Leap One development required a special technical preview build.
There's a glaring absence, too, as Project MARS, Unity's toolkit for facilitating easy AR development that was introduced at Unite Berlin in June 2018, does not appear in Unity 2019.1. Conveniently short for "Mixed and Augmented Reality Studio," MARS is expected to arrive sometime in 2019.
Last year, Unity 2018.2 came out in July, just after Unite Berlin. If I'm a betting man, that's the horse to put money on for the full debut of MARS.