Woven AR — Revolutionary Developer Tools

Even with powerful tools like Unity 3D, creating great mobile AR and VR experiences can be a challenging and slow process. With our Woven AR tools we’ve found ways to simplify and vastly speed up the process of building and modifying mobile 3D apps, so testing, tuning, tweaking and debugging are relatively effortless. These new tools have key Augmented Reality technologies like ARKit and Pantomime deeply integrated, so developers have everything they need to make great interactive experiences.

Problem: Slow Build Workflow for 3D Mobile
Many common development barriers arise from how mobile 3D apps are currently built and installed. Developers using the Unity Editor write software source code in the C# language. If we’re targeting a Mac or Windows computer, the built-in Editor provides a relatively interactive experience with a source level debugger, to Break and Step through our C# code when we need to, etc., running on the same machine. To modify a program, edit the source code and press Play again.

But to build and test mobile 3D code, there are several extra, time consuming and repeated steps. A Build for iPhone/iPads creates an Xcode app project, and then Apple’s Xcode must build that into an iOS binary, which must then be installed or re-installed on the mobile device. Even for a simple app or a tiny change, this takes several minutes. You can offload it to Unity’s Cloud Build, and even create apps for multiple mobile and other platforms at once in the cloud, but getting an iOS app through the online queue can mean waiting up to 1/2 hour to see the results of the change you just made. Worse yet, once it’s been translated for Xcode, our C# source code isn’t accessible to debuggers — we can’t do Breaks or see a Console and do source level debugging like we could for the Mac or PC. So for the whole mobile debugging process we’re relatively blind. And tweaking the details of an experience to just the right parameter values can mean spending half our time waiting for builds.

Solution: JavaScript and Instant Builds 
Woven AR lets developers write much of their mobile 3D app in JavaScript, with many valuable results.

Now both the Unity and Xcode Build steps are done once early in development, but aren’t repeated for every build. The developer can edit JavaScript for most game logic and user interface source code. To make a change simply: 
• edit and save the JavaScript code on your networked Mac or PC 
• exit and relaunch the mobile app to test the changes
When the app launches and the networked system sees the source code has changed, the new JavaScript is seamlessly loaded to the mobile device and recompiled there instantly — so fast it doesn’t noticeably slow down the app launch — and you’re testing it!

Now a build process that could take up to 1/2 hour takes a few seconds, and a developer can try out multiple different builds of an app in a single minute. This can speed development by a factor of 10 and more.

Full Featured Browser Based Debugging
And now it’s also easy to debug the JavaScript code while it’s running on the mobile device, using an ordinary JavaScript debugger like the one that’s built into every web browser.

Developers gain the best of both worlds: Unity’s graphics, physics and real-time performance and JavaScript logic that’s quick to change and easy to debug. Developers retain access to all of Unity’s capabilities and still include C# code and other Unity components in their projects as usual.

We’re doing this by providing deep integration with complementary augmented reality technologies ARKit and Pantomime, as outlined in this article and video.

Improvising Augmented Reality Worlds
We’ve begun using Woven tools for our own app development and it can be a magical experience — almost like improvising AR worlds — because the turnaround is so fast. It’s a key step toward a vision that goes back to the earliest days of virtual reality — including Ivan Sutherland’s Sketchpad, where a magical simulation was also the graphic user interface for programming. In fact, that was at the core of our vision on Jaron Lanier’s team at VPL Research, when he coined the term Virtual Reality and we made the early headsets and multi-user systems: being able to modify software from inside virtual worlds. (Few recall that VPL stood for Visual Programming Language!) Woven takes a broad step in that direction by making mixed reality software much easier and faster to modify.

The end of this rough video offers a glimpse of Woven AR’s full Integrated Development Environment, for source code level debugging and live testing of mobile AR apps. We’ll be making these capabilities available to other developers beginning next quarter. To become a Woven AR developer, contact us at support@pantomimecorp.com.