Unity took to the stage at this week's Unite Berlin event to show off a new AR development extension called MARS that will reduce the need for custom code. The extension is currently set to be released this fall and accomplishes the task by building on Unity's already relatively hardware-independent, robust development kit. Now the company is giving AR that same attention, allowing for context-aware, customizable AR elements to be easily created and defined within space. In effect, developers will now be able to draw out and define the parameters relating to inter-object distance relationships, scale, proximity, and plane size they're looking for rather than wasting time coding them. The contextually aware elements interact more accurately with real-world objects, such as the virtual addition of objects sprawled across two tabletops as shown in the event demonstration. Of course, more advanced customization is possible via coding, as with other aspects of Unity's development environment. In direct relation to those features, new object types are also being added which are better-suited for AR development.
Moving beyond the creation of scenes that more accurately occupy real spatial dimensions, Unity also highlights a new feature called Facial AR Remote Component. The tool is basically an alternative to the more traditionally used motion-capture solutions for capturing facial expressions and movement. The tool effectively utilizes high-accuracy facial depth sensing in smartphones along with 52 blend shapes to accurately track and render to 3D AR objects. In this case, the tool is used for animating character faces and tools within the new MARS extension make it easy to adjust the expressions without needing to spend more time making faces at the camera. For now, that creative functionality appears limited to developers who happen to have access to Apple's latest iPhone X, due to its 'TrueDepth' depth-sensing front-facing camera. Bearing that in mind, it shouldn't be too surprising to see similarly accurate depth-sensing make it possible with Android devices over the coming months.
Using the new MARS toolkit alongside development kits for Android, consoles, or other platforms is expected to improve the experience of developing for AR across platforms and experiences. It will also make it easier for newcomers to development to get started learning how to create those experiences. Looking past AR, more advanced developers should also be able to take advantage of some of the tools to generate full VR experiences without quite spending so much time on code.