Augmented reality adds to the immersive experience virtual reality brings to computer-generated environments with features like real-world graphics and sounds, and its development is being driven by video games and cell phones. Qualcomm's QDevNet online developer network will offer the SDK, which can be used to develop 3D experiences for everyday objects like gaming on tabletops and interactive media on product packaging and promotional items, the company said.
"Qualcomm is making it easy for developers to create interactive 3D content for the real world," said Jay Wright, director of business development at Qualcomm, in a statement. "By making the Qualcomm AR SDK available at no charge, we are encouraging all developers to start building innovative applications and services today."
Computer vision technology is incorporated into the AR platform and SDK so that graphics can be tightly aligned with underlying objects, the company said. Unlike current AR applications that use a phone's GPS and compass for mapping applications, Qualcomm said it is leveraging a vision-based AR approach, which "enables a fundamentally different user experience in which graphics appear as if they are anchored to real-world objects."
The vision technology Qualcomm is using "involves superimposing computer-generated content over live images viewed through cameras on a mobile device,'' said Victoria Fodale, senior analyst, Mobile Devices, at ABI Research, in an email. "Vision-based augmented reality allows computer graphics to be tightly aligned with real-world objects. Essentially, the SDK enables developers to incorporate interactive 3D content in their applications."
The SDK's advanced features will enable the augmentation of everyday images on printed media, along with basic 3D objects such as boxes used for product packaging, Qualcomm said. The ability for users to interact with AR applications just by touching real-world surfaces is also supported by the SDK.
There are a number of Android apps that already do augmented reality, such as Google Goggles, which conducts a search for information about an object, said Ken Hyers, senior analyst, Mobile Devices, at Technology Business Research, Inc. The class of apps that use augmented reality is really useful, he said. "It's adding information on top of reality. When I have gone out with my Android phone to do touristy things, I've been able to hold my device up to a building and the phone knows to get the GPS to identify the building and overlays a Wikipedia link so I can get info about what I'm looking at."
AR applications can be used in a variety of different industries, Hyers added; any requiring a layer of information on top of something a user is looking at. "Qualcomm is trying to figure out more ways to layer their Snapdragon processor … it's very powerful and they want to see it in more devices."
The Qualcomm AR SDK is available as a beta release and can be downloaded at developer.qualcomm.com/ar.