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How Much Does It Cost to Develop an AR App?

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With the rising popularity of AR, more businesses want to implement this technology and reap the benefits of Augmented Reality apps. But how can you budget for AR development when you’re not sure what will affect the cost?

Table of contents:

How AR works?

Use cases for AR apps

Types of AR apps

SDKs for AR apps: comparison table

AR apps features and development cost 

Factors influencing the cost of an AR app

How much does it cost to develop an AR app?

In this article we will sort out the following:

  • How does AR work in general?
  • Typical use cases of Augmented Reality apps
  • 3 types of AR apps
  • SDKs for building an AR app
  • Cost to develop Augmented Reality app features
  • Factors influencing the cost to develop an Augmented Reality app
  • How much does it cost to develop an AR app?

And some bonus content: We’ll answer some frequently asked questions about building an AR app at the end of the article. Read on!

How AR Works

Augmented Reality is a technology that overlays digital content on a real-world image. The overlay may consist of graphic content of different kinds: 3D and 2D objects, masks with object and motion tracking, interactive objects such as buttons, and so on.

Usually, AR experiences include sound content as well.

Some simple points about how AR apps work:

  • AR adds a digital overlay on the scene that the user sees. The overlay includes 3D and/or 2D content.
  • Most AR apps run on smartphones. Some require AR glasses or narrowly focused devices such as magic mirrors.
  • To start the experience, the AR platform must determine a surface, scan a marker or check the location first.
  • Computer Vision scans the environment to determine where and how to place the experience.
How AR apps work
How AR apps work

Thanks to the fact that most AR apps require only a smartphone to run, AR technologies are very affordable to both parties:

  • Businesses that want to use AR content to attract new customers can advertise their products, and so on;
  • Customers who want to try a new technology for entertainment or to interact with a brand on a new level, but don’t want to buy expensive hardware.

Brands take advantage of this affordability by building an AR app for smartphones. Let’s take a look at some successful AR platform use cases.

Use cases for AR apps 

Many industries benefit from building an AR app, but some can completely change how their business operates by taking advantage of AR.

Use cases of AR apps
Use cases of AR apps

We will discuss these industries below.

Media and entertainment

Media and entertainment businesses decide to create an AR app with the goal of dominating their industry.

It’s no secret that traditional gaming doesn’t impress anymore, and gamers are seeking new ways of entertaining themselves. That’s why the AR gaming market is expected to reach $284.9 billion by 2023 and will continue to grow further.

Social media platforms such as Instagram, TikTok, and Snapchat provide users with AR content such as face masks, graphic content for videos and photos, and even games.

Business Value of AR in Media & Entertainment

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For example, TikTok released the first-ever LiDAR-powered AR effect. With the help of LiDAR, effects bring together real and virtual worlds; the position of real objects is pre-analyzed so that graphic objects blend smoothly with interiors.

AR for media and entertainment
AR for media and entertainment

Retail

Retail businesses benefit from the ability of AR platforms to overlay 3D and 2D content on particular objects from real life. We’re talking, for example, about fitting clothes on human bodies virtually.

One of HQSoftware’s successful projects, PiCTOFIT, for example, has thrived on this concept. By building an AR app , the business gives shoppers the chance to create a virtual avatar who tries on the clothing. 

AR for retail
AR for retail

The app has boosted sales by attracting customers who love the experience of seeing how they’ll look in the clothes right from their phone, before they buy.

Education

AR is great not only for entertainment but also for educational purposes. AR can be used to teach everyone from preschoolers to higher education students.

For example, there are tons of AR apps on the market with educational content on narrow topics that will be much more engaging for children than merely reading an article.

The Ocean 4D+ app is an AR application featuring ocean creatures that shows:

  • A 3D animated model of the creature;
  • The creature’s diet, habitat, size, and other information.
AR for kids education
AR for kids education

For more mature students, there are entirely AR-based educational programs used mostly in healthcare education.

The Virtual Anatomy Simulator is a powerful application used to teach students human body anatomy with the help of 3D visualization of a real body.

The app teaches concepts of anatomy, physiology, muscles, and more.

AR for students education
AR for students education

Healthcare

One of the most impressive ways AR is used for healthcare is hands-free surgical assistance.

A surgeon can wear AR glasses and get remote assistance with graphic hints and overlaying data without any distractions. See how Augmedics handles this — they have even built an AR head-mounted display for surgical purposes. 

AR for healthcare
AR for healthcare

As you can see, AR is a universal technology that can be applied in myriad ways in many industries. 

When thinking about building an AR app, businesses must first decide which of the three types of AR is best suited to the project.

Types of AR Apps

There are three types of AR platforms:

  • Marker-based
  • Markerless
  • Geolocation-based

Let’s take a closer look at these choices.

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Marker-based AR platform

A marker-based AR app requires a visual trigger and some prior knowledge of the user’s environment to start the experience and place it correctly.

In simple words, a user needs to scan a marker — usually, it’s a 2D printed image — and when the AR app recognizes it, the experience starts.

This format suits businesses that want to offer a simple experience that will work correctly upon scanning a marker. 

Types of AR: marker-based
Types of AR: marker-based

For example, the user scans a code on a business card and gets an AR experience that showcases information about the company via digital content. See how HQSoftware did this with its own business cards. 

Markerless AR platform

A markerless AR app does not need a visual trigger to start the experience. It will be placed over some object seen through a camera. Usually, this is a flat surface, like a floor or walls, a human’s face, etc.

This type of AR doesn’t need to scan the environment beforehand. It just uses the data from the camera and built-in sensors in the smartphone.

An AR face filter, or an app that places virtual furniture in your apartment, are good examples of this type. Check out the AR masks on Instagram or Ikea Place for reference.

Types of AR: markerless
Types of AR: markerless

Location-based AR platform

A location-based AR app obtains data from the device’s accelerometer, compass, and GPS data to identify where the user is located and check whether it is a Point of Interest.

When the location is identified and it is the right one for the experience, the AR app starts the experience. It doesn’t usually rely on flat surfaces.

The most famous example is Pokemon GO — an AR game that became a worldwide phenomenon, where the user must catch pokemon located in different places around a city.

Types of AR: location-based
Types of AR: location-based

To create an AR app of any type, developers use SDKs — software development kits. Let’s take a look at the most popular ones and compare them.

SDKs for AR apps: comparison table

Let’s compare 4 of the most popular AR SDKs:

  • ARCore. Google’s AR SDK for building AR apps of any kind.
  • ARKit. Apple’s AR SDK is suitable for creating AR platforms of any type.
  • Kudan AR. All-in-one lightweight SDK owned by Kudan.
  • EasyAR. Another lightweight SDK for small to large businesses.

Parameter/SDK

ARCore

ARKit

Kudan

EasyAR

Type

Free API

Free API

Free, commercial option available

Free, commercial option available

Unity 3D

+

+

+

+

Face tracking

+

+

Needs plugins

Needs plugins

Object tracking

+

+

+

+

Deployment platform

Android

iOS

Android/iOS

Android/iOS

Cloud recognition

– 

+

+

Once the right tool is chosen, developers are ready to build particular features of AR apps. Some features are typical for various AR apps, and it is easier to determine the Augmented Reality app development cost when you know what type it is going to be.

Next, let’s break down the costs.

AR Apps Features and Development Cost 

Let’s start with some typical development approaches:

  • Building an MVP
  • Building a Custom AR app
  • Building a large enterprise-grade AR app

And some typical features:

  • Marker-based AR
  • Markerless AR
  • Geolocation-based AR

From here we will analyze the Augmented Reality app development cost for these 6 options.

To calculate all further costs, we’ll take an average developer rate of $35 per hour, which is common in countries such as Estonia and Belarus that boast high-quality development services.

Cost to develop an Augmented Reality app MVP

An AR MVP will help you test your idea and decide whether it is worth developing a whole AR platform. MVPs are generally lightweight, user-friendly, and carry few features: virtual models that users can rotate and zoom, and that might be it.

In this case, the whole process from designing and wireframing to development and publishing in app stores will take around 65 hours. With a small team of 2 developers, 1 tester, 1 designer, and 1 3D modeler, the AR app development costs will be up to $11,400.

AR MVP development cost
AR MVP development cost

Cost to develop a custom AR app

A custom AR application could include an unlimited number of features, but we will stop with a few of them.

A simple custom AR application will probably include the following features:

  • Sign in and sign up for users;
  • Catalog of AR content;
  • Sharing options;
  • Third-party APIs, plugins, etc.;
  • Back-end features.

This set will take up to 100 hours, depending on the complexity of features. With the same team composition as was stated earlier, the Augmented Reality app cost will be around $63,000.

AR custom app development cost
AR custom app development cost

Cost to develop an enterprise AR app

Enterprise AR applications simultaneously satisfy a number of potential business objectives. They may offer features for employee training, cooperative work, inventory tracking, and so on.

A standard set of features for this type of AR app will include:

  • Sign in and sign up for users;
  • Catalog of AR content;
  • Recommendations based on data analysis;
  • Sharing options;
  • Recognition system;
  • A number of 3D models.

With publishing to app stores, building an AR app for enterprise takes a minimum of $38,000. At the upper end, the sky is the limit. The final price depends on the complexity of the project, number of features, and team composition.

AR enterprise-grade app cost
AR enterprise-grade app cost

Cost to develop a marker-based AR app

Marker-based AR apps need a visual code that triggers the AR experience. Typically such apps are simple and can be developed in a short time. 

It can take around 100 hours to build an AR app and will cost around $3,000.

Cost to develop a markerless AR app

Markerless AR is a more complex technology that requires extra effort when building an AR app.

It typically takes up to 500 hours of development and design, and the cost to develop an Augmented Reality app of this type starts at $10,000.

Cost to develop a geolocation-based AR app

Geolocation-based AR apps often require a cloud connection to download AR content from the server to show it to users. Such apps have more features, are more complex, and require a larger team.

AR development costs by app type
AR development costs by app type

It takes more than 400 hours to build such an app. The Augmented Reality app development cost will start at $12,000.

Note that all of these estimations are extremely approximate. To learn how much it will cost to develop an Augmented Reality app for your specific needs, contact us for a free estimate.

Factors Influencing the Cost of an AR App

We have partly described these costs already, but let’s dive in a little deeper

Team composition

An AR development team can include the following specialists:

  • Business Analyst
  • Project Manager
  • UX/UI designer
  • Software developers
  • 3D modelers
  • QA

If you have to hire a complete team, or the project requires more than just two developers, it will cost more.

Team composition for AR development
Team composition for AR development

You can have a Project Manager, or a Business Analyst, or both, coming from your business, without needing to hire them from a vendor. This will save you some money but can complicate the development process.

Hourly rates

An hourly rate is the price a customer pays for an hour of work of one specialist. Rates depend on the experience of a specialist, their position, and their location.

For example: according to Upwork, Unity developers from junior to senior levels cost $15-$75 respectively. According to Payscale, the average hourly rate in the USA is $39.55, and in Spain, it is around $25.

Hourly rates of AR developers
Hourly rates of AR developers

Project type

AR app development costs will differ drastically depending on the project type you choose.

Creating an AR app with only a few 3D models and a marker will take little time and, of course, cost less than building an enterprise-grade AR system.

Geolocation-based AR also costs more than other types of AR.

Number of features

Here, the rule is simple — the more features required, the higher the cost. Also, features take varying amounts of time to build.

Amount of 3D content

Creating 3D content for AR experiences is a whole separate issue. It takes time and money and often requires a whole bunch of developers working simultaneously.

Now that you know all the variables, let’s figure out what your Augmented Reality app cost might be.

How Much Does It Cost to Develop an AR App?

Because there are so many factors affecting the cost of developing an Augmented Reality app, we will try to create a rough estimate using the information already shared in this article.

For a complex AR app with, let’s say, several markers, social media sharing features, a content gallery, and so on, it will take more than 160 hours of development.

Here we will also add around 100 hours of Business Analysis, Project Management, 3D design, and QA work.

AR app development cost, rough estimation
AR app development cost, rough estimation

As a result, building an AR app will take around 260 hours, and the cost to develop an Augmented Reality app with the aforementioned features will be around $46,000.

To determine an AR app development cost for your business, drop us a line — we will create a free personal estimate for you.

Yuri Yarmolovich

AR/VR Expert

A developer with extensive expertise in AR/VR, very ingrained into the topic of Mixed Reality development. Shares his knowledge and the results of many years of work. 

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Frequently Asked Questions

What are the AR & VR market size predictions?
Where is AR used?
How does augmented reality work?
How much time does it take to develop a basic AR app?
What benefits will I get from outsourcing AR app development to Estonia?
Is Augmented Reality expensive?

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