Sample Code

Creating a Persistent AR Experience

Save and load ARKit world-mapping data to allow users to return to previous AR experiences in the same real-world environment.

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Overview

This sample app demonstrates a simple AR experience for iOS 12 devices. Before exploring the code, try building and running the app to familiarize yourself with the user experience it demonstrates:

  1. Run the app. You can look around and tap to place a virtual 3D object on real-world surfaces. (Tap again to relocate the object.)

  2. After you’ve explored the environment, the Save Experience button becomes available. Tap it to save ARKit’s world-mapping data to local storage.

  3. Tap the Load Experience button. (You can do this immediately, or after quitting and relaunching the app, even if the app has been terminated in the background.)

  4. While ARKit attempts to resume an AR session from the saved world-mapping data, the app displays a snapshot of the camera view from the time that data was saved. For best results, move the device so that the camera view matches the screenshot.

Follow the steps below to see how this app uses the ARWorldMap class to save and restore ARKit’s spatial mapping state.

Run the AR Session and Place AR Content

This app extends the basic workflow for building an ARKit app. (For details, see Building Your First AR Experience.) It defines an ARWorldTrackingConfiguration with plane detection enabled, then runs that configuration in the ARSession attached to the ARSCNView that displays the AR experience.

When UITapGestureRecognizer detects a tap on the screen, the handleSceneTap method uses ARKit hit-testing to find a 3D point on a real-world surface, then places an ARAnchor marking that position. When ARKit calls the delegate method renderer(_:didAdd:for:), the app loads a 3D model for ARSCNView to display at the anchor’s position.

Capture and Save the AR World Map

An ARWorldMap object contains a snapshot of all the spatial mapping information that ARKit uses to locate the user’s device in real-world space. To save a map that can reliably be used for restoring your AR session later, you’ll first need to find a good time to capture the map.

ARKit provides a worldMappingStatus value that indicates whether it’s currently a good time to capture a world map (or if it’s better to wait until ARKit has mapped more of the local environment). This app uses mapping status to provide visual feedback and choose when to make the Save Experience button available:

// Enable Save button only when the mapping status is good and an object has been placed
switch frame.worldMappingStatus {
case .extending, .mapped:
    saveExperienceButton.isEnabled =
        virtualObjectAnchor != nil && frame.anchors.contains(virtualObjectAnchor!)
default:
    saveExperienceButton.isEnabled = false
}
statusLabel.text = """
Mapping: \(frame.worldMappingStatus.description)
Tracking: \(frame.camera.trackingState.description)
"""

When the user taps the Save Experience button, the app calls getCurrentWorldMap(completionHandler:) to capture the map from the running ARSession, then serializes it to a Data object with NSKeyedArchiver and writes it to local storage:

sceneView.session.getCurrentWorldMap { worldMap, error in
    guard let map = worldMap
        else { self.showAlert(title: "Can't get current world map", message: error!.localizedDescription); return }
    
    // Add a snapshot image indicating where the map was captured.
    guard let snapshotAnchor = SnapshotAnchor(capturing: self.sceneView)
        else { fatalError("Can't take snapshot") }
    map.anchors.append(snapshotAnchor)
    
    do {
        let data = try NSKeyedArchiver.archivedData(withRootObject: map, requiringSecureCoding: true)
        try data.write(to: self.mapSaveURL, options: [.atomic])
        DispatchQueue.main.async {
            self.loadExperienceButton.isHidden = false
            self.loadExperienceButton.isEnabled = true
        }
    } catch {
        fatalError("Can't save map: \(error.localizedDescription)")
    }
}

To help a user resume the AR experience from this map later, the app also captures a snapshot of the camera view with the example SnapshotAnchor class and stores it in the world map.

Load and Relocalize to a Saved Map

When the app launches, it checks local storage for a world map file it may have saved in an earlier session:

do {
    guard let worldMap = try NSKeyedUnarchiver.unarchivedObject(ofClass: ARWorldMap.self, from: data)
        else { fatalError("No ARWorldMap in archive.") }
    return worldMap
} catch {
    fatalError("Can't unarchive ARWorldMap from file data: \(error)")
}

If that file exists and can be deserialized as an ARWorldMap object, the app makes its Load Experience button available. When you tap the button, the app tells ARKit to attempt resuming the session captured in that world map, by creating and running an ARWorldTrackingConfiguration using that map as the initialWorldMap:

let configuration = self.defaultConfiguration // this app's standard world tracking settings
configuration.initialWorldMap = worldMap
sceneView.session.run(configuration, options: [.resetTracking, .removeExistingAnchors])

ARKit then attempts to relocalize to the new world map—that is, to reconcile the received spatial-mapping information with what it senses of the local environment. This process is more likely to succeed if the user moves to areas of the local environment that they visited during the previous session. To help the user successfully resume the saved experience, this app uses the example SnapshotAnchor class to save a camera image in the world map, then displays that image while ARKit is relocalizing.

Restore AR Content After Relocalization

Saving a world map also archives all anchors currently associated with the AR session. After you successfully run a session from a saved world map, the session contains all anchors previously saved in the map. You can use saved anchors to restore virtual content from a previous session.

In this app, after relocalizing to a previously saved world map, the virtual object placed in the previous session automatically appears at its saved position. The same ARSCNView delegate method renderer(_:didAdd:for:) fires both when you directly add an anchor to the session and when the session restores anchors from a world map. To determine which saved anchor represents the virtual object, this app uses the ARAnchor name property.

func renderer(_ renderer: SCNSceneRenderer, didAdd node: SCNNode, for anchor: ARAnchor) {
    guard anchor.name == virtualObjectAnchorName
        else { return }
    
    // save the reference to the virtual object anchor when the anchor is added from relocalizing
    if virtualObjectAnchor == nil {
        virtualObjectAnchor = anchor
    }
    node.addChildNode(virtualObject)
}

In your own AR experience, you can choose among various techniques for restoring virtual content associated with saved anchors. For example:

  • An app for visualizing furniture from a fixed catalog might save an identifier for each placed object in the corresponding anchor’s name, then use that identifier to determine which 3D model to display when resuming a session from a saved map.

  • A game that places virtual characters to play in the user’s environment might create various custom ARAnchor subclasses to store gameplay data specific to each character, so that resuming a session from a saved map also restores the state of the game. (See ARAnchor Subclassing Notes and ARAnchorCopying]ARAnchorCopying.)

See Also

AR World Sharing and Persistence

Creating a Multiuser AR Experience

Transmit ARKit world-mapping data between nearby devices with the MultipeerConnectivity framework to create a shared basis for AR experiences.

class ARWorldMap

The space-mapping state and set of anchors from a world-tracking AR session.