What’s this webAR thing?

What is webAR and what can it do? It can do so much more than just showing a 3D-model and you should know about it. 

We’ve been posting lot’s of vids of webAR things on LinkedIN (namely our own projects) over the last year or so but have not really properly explained what it’s about. And what it can do.

WebAR = augmented reality experiences that run in your mobile devices browser.

Regardless of the platform or framework. If it is AR and runs without app downloads through your browser, I would call it webAR. Or at least that’s my definition for webAR, feel free to disagree and let me know alternative definitions. 

What can webAR do? When created properly, a webAR-experience can contain different types of media, a bunch of interactivity (interaction X → launch event Y / play animation Z / open info text / open 360 image / etc…), even slight gamification! The webAR content can anchor to an image target (most reliable atm imo), a planar surface or the users face. And the content can be at least:

😎 3D models, static and animated
😎 360 imagery
😎 images
😎 video
😎 audio
😎 text infos
😎 links 

The performance of webAR experiences is a sum of two things; the device used AND the type of content. On older devices, webAR may work with a reduced fps or not at all. Ideally, the content is created with the webAR use in mind and it will be created so that it loads fast (on mobile internet connections) and runs smoothly even on slightly older devices. By content optimization I mean for example:

🤓 3D models created to have as little polygons as possible
🤓 textures of 3D models are of reasonable size and encoded to be small
🤓 animations created in a smart way, not too many frames / using loops when possible
🤓 all images and video content also optimized; reasonable resolution and encoding

The performance of webAR experiences is a sum of two things; the device used AND the type of content.

webAR museum project example

What makes webAR so special then? The single biggest “HELL YEAH” of webAR is the fact that users do not need to download an app to view AR content. Downloading an app is no biggie but it is one extra step that consumers really don’t want to take.

Downloading an app is no biggie but it is one extra step that consumers really don’t want to take.

Until very recently, AR experiences required an app to be viewed. Even today, there are companies who are developing apps to be used as AR viewers for viewing basic content. Apps to view content that could very well be viewed without apps. Why force users to take that extra step? 

There definitely is a time and place for AR apps and that is when more performance is required. Given the speed of tech progressing (like holy shit it is fast!) I feel that soon this performance will be available via browsers too. But for AR-experiences aimed at consumers, if you don’t have an iPad with a pre-installed AR app to hand your target audience (this could be the case at a trade show booth for example), I strongly recommend webAR. (Social AR filters is a whole different discussion, app AR for that kind of social media marketing campaigns is smart if the target audience uses the chosen social media platforms and have the apps installed already.)

There are many ways to create webAR experiences; frameworks like AR.js or platforms like Zappar, 8th Wall, WorldCAST AR etc. At flyAR our primary tool for webAR productions is Zappar. Mainly because it works, we have used it successfully for years, and have built a highly versatile template that allows us to create very interactive and rich experiences with relative ease. In pre-webAR times we first built AR experiences to be viewed on the Zappar app, but the same workflow applies for webAR creations. 

What’s next for webAR? Many branches of related tech; mobile devices performance / sensors, mobile browsers, network speeds, cloud computing, etc are developing amazingly fast and these will surely shape the future of mobile webAR for the better. More content will load faster, it will run smoother and look better. Spatial AR, different types of smart segmentation and occlusion will probably make it’s way to webAR in the near future as well.  

WebAR is legit and highly versatile already today and the use cases are limitless. Check out some examples from our project page (a bit outdated sorry) and YouTube. What would you use webAR for?