Top 4 open source augmented reality SDKs

Get in on the AR app boom with any of these open source software development kits.
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Advancements in augmented reality (AR) technologies have unearthed possibilities that previously were restricted to our imaginations. Today, it's possible to use sophisticated computer-produced vision to augment our physical environment in entirely new and captivating ways.

The resulting boom has led developers to seek out the best open source AR software development kits (SDKs) to build the next big AR-powered applications and games. This includes people like Swizec, who has spent the past 10 years working in AR and developing apps like the projects shown on

If you're interested in joining Swizec and the other developers creating innovative AR projects, take a look at this list of the top four free and open source AR software SDKs you can use for powering your applications.

Google's ARCore

Google launched ARCore in early 2018. ARCore is Google's open source (Apache 2.0 license) augmented reality SDK for bringing compelling AR experiences to Android devices (version 7.0 and above).

ARCore allows you to build apps that use existing phone features to sense the real world and interact with the information for creating exciting AR scenes.

Google's platform comes with various APIs, and some are available on both Android and iOS devices to support shared augmented reality experiences.

To seamlessly blend the digital and the physical worlds, ARCore employs three main capabilities: motion tracking, environmental understanding, and light estimation.


AR.js is an effective JavaScript-powered open source (MIT license) augmented reality SDK for the web. This solution (which developer Swizec uses) enables you to bring AR experiences to your web browser without having to download and install an app.

AR.js runs very fast. In fact, it can reach 60fps (frames per second) on a two-year-old smartphone. Furthermore, you can use it on any mobile platform—including Windows Mobile, Android, and iOS 11 devices.

If you want an open source AR software that runs 100% on the web browser, then AR.js may suit your needs.


ARToolKit is a popular open source SDK used for creating enthralling AR apps that overlay virtual imagery on the physical environment. It is fast, intuitive, and cross-platform—you can use it on Linux, iOS, Android, and Windows. It was released as a completely open source platform (LGPLv3 and later) in 2015, making it one of the first AR SDKs available.

One of the main problems when building AR apps is effectively tracking the user's viewpoint. Before an app can determine the specifics of the viewpoint to draw the virtual imagery, it must establish the user's position in the physical world. To address this issue, ARToolKit uses complex computer vision methodologies, which allow development of an extensive range of AR applications.

Other features available in ARToolKit include tracking of planar images, plugins for Unity, support for camera orientation tracking, and simple camera calibration code.


DroidAR, initially developed in 2010, is the only open source (GPLv3) AR SDK dedicated to Android applications. With the framework, you can easily build location-based and marker-based AR experiences for Android devices.

If you are looking for a simple and free SDK to create state-of-the-art AR apps and games on Android, DroidAR may be the perfect answer.

Get busy

Augmented reality technology is quickly taking the world by storm, and these open source AR SDKs will help you enhance your apps' capabilities. Do you have any questions or suggestions about open source AR SDKs? Please share in the comments section below.

Dr. Michael is the founder and CEO of Los Angeles-based Education Ecosystem. Inc. (previously Education Ecosystem (LEDU) is a project-based learning platform that teaches students how to build real products in areas such as programming, game development, artificial intelligence, cybersecurity, data science, and blockchain.

1 Comment

I guess even ARToolKit is candidate in the above list. Please guide.

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