While Unity is already the volume-leading 3D engine for augmented reality content, the announcement of Project MARS, a new augmented reality authoring tool in June at Unite Berlin, promised AR development to a whole new audience by designers and other non-coders this fall.
Unity has released Unity 2018.3, but the project MARS (short for Mixed and Augmented Reality Studio) is no longer available. Instead, according to a company spokesman, it will make its debut sometime in 2019. Even so, the latest version of Unity brings some welcome enhancements to AR developers.
The AR feature for 2018.3 is updated in the latest release of AR Foundation, the platform-independent Unity mobile AR apps toolkit. First, AR Foundation now supports Unity's lightweight rendering pipeline. Second, Unity has added new optimized camera image APIs that help developers create algorithms for computer vision mode and other image processing functions. Last but not least, Unity 2018.3 supports ARKit's ARWorldMap, its World Mapping feature, multiplayer AR, and persistent content.
Unity 2018.3 also launches a new set of Github repositories for performance testing of augmented reality and virtual reality apps. Using an automated test pack, developers can easily test their apps for common features and performance, while acceptance checks help verify configurations and compatibility between Unity versions.
In addition, the new version adds native support for Daydream VR controllers and adds haptic APIs to Window Mixed Reality, Oculus, and Vive controllers.
Of these new features, support for ARKit 2.0 may be the most important. So far, there have been very few apps that use multiplayer mode, persistence, and object recognition in the latest edition of Apple's AR Toolkit. Support for ARWorldMap in AR Foundations could be the development that drives adoption of the ARKit 2.0 feature set.
The delay in Project MARS's expansion may be a shame, but Unity has certainly not pushed the project into the background. The company dedicated a session entitled "The Future of XR" to the workshop during the Unite Los Angeles 2018 in October 2018.
During the session, Timoni West, director of XR Research at Unity, and her team gave the audience an insight into their development approach, including some wild demos of AR business cards and headless development environments. The moderators also shared how Project MARS deals with data and simulations in Unity.
Although Project MARS was moved to 2019, it's hard It is conceivable that developers and designers have to wait too long in the new year to get their hands on the new AR toy.
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