Adobe Aero is an upcoming program that lets users create Augmented Reality applications on iOS using ARKit 2+, apparently without any coding It intends to be the “MS Paint” of Augmented Reality, except instead of being on the model-creation side like Blender/Paint 3D, it takes the user through a step-by-step instructions to creating an AR scene. Along with scenes, this can also be used to make 3D Animations using ones hands etc. It’s adobe’s first step at standardising the AR ecosystem with its output files capable of being used in Photoshop etc. As a proof-of-concept/example, Terminator:Dark Fate used it to create a 3D scene from the movie, using Aero. It seems to be in line with “drag and drop website makers” but for AR apps that don’t intend to do anything beyond norm, making it faster for content creators/developers to deliver them. It remains to be seen whether it’ll end up being a replacement for simplistic AR apps using present AR stack, or will be an input into the present stack to fasten the procedure. It is available for iPhone and iPad
When you first start Adobe Aero with a new AR project, it begins scanning for surfaces, this is visibly different than how we made augmented reality applications in Unity using Vuforia, which used specific "surfaces" (image covers etc)to pin virtual objects into the real world. Aero on the other hand uses life-tracking and figuring out what is a flat surface and what isn't, then dynamically lets the user decide how this surface will be used (This is a lot like how Unreal Engine 4 handles augmented reality). In Aero once the user drops an anchor/pins a position on the surface, "Assets" or AR objects can be dropped on it (important to notice that up till this point, not a single line of code has been written or seen, all of this drag-and-drop is inside Adobe Aero's interface). One thing to notice is the ease of transition/animation in AR at runtime. Even though the objects used have high levels of depth and shadow, the animations of the number of objects put in does not drag the quality down! Parts of it can be attributed to the arrested development of the scene, since there isn't a lot that a user/developer can do, there arent a lot of variables that change (from the application's point of view) which leads to some astounding levels of optimisation, and all that processing power saved ends up powering the smoother animation and the dynamic placements of objects of newly found surfaces, something a lot of us coming from Unity could only dream of!
There have been plenty of applications that let users put 3D objects in space and play around with them, but most of those were proof of concepts that could do either one thing or a family of things but nothing more, there was interaction, but it was caged. Aero brings forth orchestration of interactions, in a way a lot like "Scratch" that cat-themed coding language for kids, where they drag and drop to understand logic, in Aero, it's simplified further. The user long holds an object to select it, clicks on interaction, and the app gives it all possible ways that a user can physically (or virtually) interact with it (from touch to hold etc), this is called a "trigger", in line with an "event trigger", and when this happens, the user can decide what to do with the object (animate it, rotate it, make it bounce, change scale etc), all of this again takes no line of code, and is done in the app's UI, in a "What you see is what you get" web way!
As we see in the attached screenshots, the 3d objects once imported into the application can be chained together with interactions, its User Experience draws parallel to "Twine", which is an interactable story-writing application, except it works on web and HTML5, here Aero tried to bring the same experience/ease of use, just replacing the story telling from static words to 3D models in our surroundings!
That said, as great as it sounds, it isn't a complete replacement of something like Unreal Engine 4's AR or Unity (like Wix.com isn't a replacement for pure backend coding), so where does it stand in the arsenal of a 3D enthusiast CS student?
For starters, Adobe Aero allows users to import FBX files! So much of what one uses in their Unity/UE4 projects can be used in Aero, the orchestration done within Aero can be exported as custom animations/scenes (reality files, along with some of their proprietery formats), so parts of it can be reused within Unity etc.