The Cost of Augmented Reality

Are the tools for creating AR too expensive?

Are the tools used to develop augmented reality experiences too expensive?

My hot take: no. But it isn’t 2022 yet. The market is too young, the experiences you can create are still (mostly) experimental, and the AR “platforms” are pricing for an industry that doesn’t exist yet (at least on the consumer-facing side).

Unity MARS

Unity launched MARS at the AWE conference. It was a big deal. And it’s an amazing tool. They just left out the price tag during their presentations.

MARS takes some of the hard work out of AR. For example, it lets you test how your experience would work in a real-world setting without leaving your desktop.

Now that it has launched, the $50/month cost is raising eyebrows (take some time to read the whole thread):

Unreal Has a Big Strategy in Mind

The comparison to Unreal is a bit unfair.

I mean, I get it: if you have a choice as a developer between learning the (much harder) Unreal and not paying anything, or forking over $50/month for MARS, you’ll at least run some back-of-the-napkin calculations.

But the story is a bit bigger than that. Because if you’re headed down the Unreal path, you’re entering an ecosystem that’s trying to conquer the Metaverse.

And you’d better read this take by Matthew Ball.

Doesn’t sound like it has anything to do with AR?

I’m not so sure. I think the sneak peek at Unreal 5 has some implications for AR. Read my post and see whether you agree.

8th Wall

So let’s throw out another benchmark for the sake of comparison: 8th Wall:

Which is a platform for helping you develop WEB-based AR.

I have no real issue with 8th Wall pricing. But I won’t pay $100/month for a single test AR-enabled Web page.

They’re forcing me to bake my own code, using something like AFrame instead.

Frankly, 8th Wall needs a $10/month tier where I can’t DO very much but can at least run some tests.

We’re Not There Yet

Wallace and Gromit has the budget for Unity MARS. Most indie developers don’t. At least, not when they’re just testing out concepts or trying to find a ‘fit’ for an idea they’ve been tossing around.

These tools aren’t priced for the market as it exists today.

They’re priced for the enterprise guys using Hololens, maybe, but not for the indie game developer trying to figure out some cool new AR experience.

They’re priced for the market of tomorrow when we’re all developing for AR glasses and 3D Web sites.

I get why they do it: it’s way harder to raise prices later. Better to start high and come down as the market scales up.

A Few Other Thins I’m Reading

Some quick links.

Read this amazing post on Facebook’s designs for AR shopping.

Speaking of open source, here’s how to do gesture recognition for Web-based AR using AR.js

Research mode for Hololens 2 is coming in July

Some random non-AR inspiration

It’s time to build small things. Nothing to do with AR, but a call to action for start-ups.

Total computer theory geek out: this old but massively awesome presentation by Ivan Sutherland - "How Quantized Should a Digital System Be?"

I wanna take a flying taxi.