Unity often reminds us that the majority of AR apps and experiences are built with the Unity 3D engine, and now the Unity MARS service, which facilitates easy AR creation for seasoned coders and newcomers.
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With the Unity MARS Companion app, developers can create and layout objects in an AR experience, map environments, capture environmental data, and create and capture markers for anchoring content, along with hotspots for interactions, according to an announcement from the company on Tuesday.
The app uses the smartphone's camera to scan rooms, take photos, and record video with environmental data. Once synced with the Unity Editor, this data enables users to simulate physical spaces for AR development. In addition, in-situ authoring gives developers the ability to create and anchor content on their mobile devices and squash bugs related to lighting conditions or the user's environment in real-time
The app is available for all Unity users, although certain features, namely syncing changes to the cloud and importing data from the Unity Editor, are locked to and only available to Project MARS subscribers. Project MARS plans start at $50 per seat per month with a 45-day free trial. Unity recommends a Unity MARS 1.2 and Unity 2019.3.0f6 or newer to use the companion app.
First unveiled by Unity in June 2018, the company made Project MARS fully available to developers last year. Among the first experiences to emerge from the tool was Dr. Seuss's ABC - An Amazing AR Alphabet!, which was released in March 2020.
"Unity MARS has been the toolkit that has allowed us to realize a new horizon, a shift in the potential of immersive experiences by enabling them to become truly dynamic. Put simply, Unity MARS is adding intelligence to AR," said Will Humphrey, lead creative and studio manager at Sugar Creative, in a blog post.
Competition in the AR development tools space has gotten stiffer with products designed for creating AR experiences with limited coding knowledge. Adobe and Apple have minted their own AR creation tools aimed at non-developers, while Snapchat and Facebook also have their own tools for creating camera effects on their respective apps.
Overall, Project MARS helps Unity cater to a similar audience. Working alongside tools like AR Foundation, which helps developers to deploy apps for iOS and Android from the same code base, Unity has positioned itself to maintain and grow its lead among makers of development environments.