XRAnchor3D in Godot – Complete Guide

Welcome to our tutorial on XRAnchor3D in Godot 4, where we delve into the fascinating world of augmented reality (AR) within the realm of game development. Augmented reality has revolutionized gaming and application development by superimposing digital content onto the real world, creating immersive experiences that blur the line between virtual and physical spaces. In this tutorial, we’ll explore the XRAnchor3D class in Godot 4, a powerful tool for anchoring virtual objects within AR environments, which is critical for developing interactive and engaging AR applications.

What is XRAnchor3D?

XRAnchor3D is a class within the Godot 4 engine that represents an anchor point in AR space. It’s a type of spatial node that allows developers to connect the physical locations mapped by AR platforms with positions in the game world. Essentially, it helps to bridge the gap between the real-world environment and the virtual content you want to display.

What is it Used For?

This class is incredibly useful for any AR application that requires stable placement of virtual objects in the real world. Whether you’re creating an AR game that spawns magical creatures on a tabletop, or an educational app that overlays historical facts on landmarks, XRAnchor3D enables these experiences by providing a reliable reference point in the physical environment.

Why Should I Learn About XRAnchor3D?

By understanding and utilizing XRAnchor3D, you unlock the potential to create rich AR experiences with Godot 4. This knowledge is crucial for anyone looking to dive into AR development as it ensures your virtual content consistently interacts with the real world in a meaningful way. AR is expected to be one of the leading technologies in the years to come, and mastering tools like XRAnchor3D gives you a competitive edge in the industry.

Whether you’re a beginner just starting your journey into game development or an experienced coder looking to expand your skillset, this tutorial will provide you with a comprehensive understanding of XRAnchor3D in Godot 4. Let’s begin our journey into the exciting intersection of the real and the virtual!

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Setting up the AR Environment

Before we dive into the specifics of using XRAnchor3D, it’s crucial to set up your AR environment within Godot 4. This typically involves initializing the AR server and creating an AR session. Here’s how you can start setting up your scene for AR:

var ar_session = ARVRServer.find_interface("ARCore")
if ar_session and ar_session.initialize():
    get_viewport().arvr = true
    # Other initialization code

It’s important to note that while this example uses “ARCore” as the interface (mainly used for Android devices), you might need to adjust the code to match the AR platform you’re targeting, like ARKit for iOS devices.

Creating an XRAnchor3D Node

To utilize the XRAnchor3D class, you must first create an anchor node within your scene. Here’s a simple example that creates an anchor and adds it to your AR scene:

var anchor = XRAnchor3D.new()

This code snippet creates a new XRAnchor3D instance and adds it to the root of your scene, though typically, you’d want to add it to a specific parent that represents your AR context.

Positioning the Anchor

An anchor must be positioned in relation to the real world. This can be done by detecting surfaces or features in the real world through ARCore or ARKit and then setting the anchor’s position accordingly:

# Suppose you have a detected plane from ARCore or ARKit
var plane_global_transform = detected_plane.get_global_transform()

# Create and position the anchor at the center of the detected plane
var anchor = XRAnchor3D.new()
anchor.global_transform = plane_global_transform

Keep in mind that positioning anchors accurately is pivotal for a good AR experience.

Anchoring Virtual Objects

Once your anchor is set, you can parent virtual objects to it. This makes them appear stationary in the real world, irrespective of the user’s movement. Here’s how to parent a 3D model to an anchor:

# Load a 3D model
var my_model = load("res://my_model.tscn").instance()

# Assuming 'anchor' is already created and positioned

This will ensure that your model maintains its position in the real world, moving and scaling with the anchor as necessary.

Let’s consider using multiple anchors for different objects:

# Let's create two different anchors for two objects
var anchor1 = XRAnchor3D.new()
var anchor2 = XRAnchor3D.new()

# Position anchors based on different detected planes
anchor1.global_transform = detected_plane_1.get_global_transform()
anchor2.global_transform = detected_plane_2.get_global_transform()

# Load models
var model1 = load("res://model1.tscn").instance()
var model2 = load("res://model2.tscn").instance()

# Parent models to anchors

# Add anchors to the AR scene

This will create a scene with two virtual objects each anchored to a different location in the real world.

With these basics covered, you’re well on your way to creating more complex AR experiences using Godot 4 and XRAnchor3D. In the next part of our tutorial, we’ll explore more advanced topics, such as updating anchor positions dynamically and responding to changes in the physical environment.

Incorporating dynamic interaction within AR applications requires updating anchors based on user input or environmental changes. For instance, you might want to move an anchor when the user taps on a different location in the physical space. Here’s how this can be managed:

# Assuming user input is received and a new position is determined
var new_position_global = get_new_position_based_on_input()

# Update the anchor's global position
anchor.global_transform.origin = new_position_global

This will move the anchor to a new position, and all child nodes will follow, maintaining their relative transformations.

Another scenario is when an anchor becomes invalid, and you need to reset or remove it. Perhaps your AR system detected that the physical environment changed significantly:

if anchor.is_invalidated():
    # Do something like hide virtual content or recreate the anchor

AR systems sometimes provide the ability to track the confidence level in an anchor’s accuracy. You can use this information to inform users or decide when to update anchor positions:

# Check anchor's tracking confidence
var confidence_level = anchor.get_confidence_value()

# You can then decide when to refresh or reposition the anchor
if confidence_level < SOME_THRESHOLD_VALUE:
    # Code to update the anchor's position

Handling occlusion is a sophisticated part of AR experiences. You want to hide virtual objects when they are blocked by real-world counterparts. To achieve this effect:

# Use Godot's raycasting or physics engine to detect objects in between
# the camera and the virtual object and hide virtual object accordingly
func check_occlusion(anchor, camera):
    var ray_origin = camera.project_ray_origin(anchor.global_transform.origin)
    var ray_end = anchor.global_transform.origin

    var space_state = get_world().direct_space_state
    var result = space_state.intersect_ray(ray_origin, ray_end)

    if result.size() > 0:
        # The ray collided with something, hide your virtual object
        anchor.get_child(0).visible = false
        anchor.get_child(0).visible = true

Occlusion handling is often more complex in practice, but this gives you a starting point for simple scenarios.

Beyond static and dynamic positioning, animation and interaction with anchored objects can add depth to your AR experience. Here’s a simple example to animate a model once it’s anchored:

# Assuming you have an AnimationPlayer as a child of the model

This would trigger an animation ensuring that your virtual object is not only anchored in place but also lively and dynamic.

Finally, don’t forget to clean up your anchors and AR session when done to free up resources:

# Use this when AR experience ends or the scene changes
func cleanup():
    for child in get_root().get_children():
        if child is XRAnchor3D:
    ar_session.uninitialize() # Assuming 'ar_session' is the ARVRInterface you initialized earlier

Proper cleanup ensures that your application remains performant and stable over time.

These code snippets provide a foundational understanding of interacting with anchors in AR using Godot 4. By managing anchors effectively, you can build robust AR experiences that delight users with their interactivity and realism. Remember, practice is key to mastering these concepts, so don’t hesitate to experiment with these examples as you develop your AR projects!

Enhancing AR experiences can significantly benefit from responding to real-world events and user interactions. For instance, consider a scenario where you want your virtual object to react when the anchor is placed close to certain physical features in the environment. To achieve this, you might check the anchor’s position against a predefined set of conditions:

func is_close_to_feature(anchor, feature_position, threshold_distance):
    var distance_to_feature = anchor.global_transform.origin.distance_to(feature_position)
    return distance_to_feature < threshold_distance

# Usage example
if is_close_to_feature(anchor, Vector3(1, 0, 1), 0.5):
    # Trigger some reaction because the anchor is close to a specific feature

As AR development often includes interfacing with device hardware features, such as the camera or gyroscope, you might want to align your virtual content with the orientation of the device. Here’s how to update an anchor’s orientation based on the device’s gyroscope:

func update_anchor_orientation_from_gyroscope(anchor, gyroscope_data):
    anchor.global_transform.basis = Basis(gyroscope_data)
    # Further calculations might be necessary depending on the gyroscope data format

Touch gestures are a common way users interact with AR, such as tapping on the screen to place or interact with objects. Detecting touch and translating it into the AR space requires mapping 2D screen coordinates to 3D space:

func _unhandled_input(event):
    if event is InputEventScreenTouch and event.pressed:
        # Get the touch position on the screen
        var touch_position = Vector2(event.position.x, event.position.y)
        # Translate the 2D touch position to the 3D AR world space
        var world_position = ar_session.get_camera_transform().unproject_position(touch_position)
        # Now you can use this position to create or interact with an anchor

Another key aspect of AR experiences is dynamically modifying the environment based on user behavior. For example, changing the environment’s lighting to match the time of day using information from the device’s clock:

func update_lighting_based_on_time_of_day(enviroment, current_time):
    # Let's say the game has morning, afternoon, and night lighting scenarios
    var light_intensity = match current_time:
        "morning": 0.8,
        "afternoon": 1.0,
        "night": 0.5

Lastly, for an interactive experience, you may want your anchors to support being moved by user drag actions. Let’s create a function to start drag:

# Assuming that 'anchor' has been picked for dragging
func start_dragging_anchor(anchor):
    anchor.set_as_toplevel(true)  # Ensures the anchor node moves independently from its parent

# And another one to stop dragging
func stop_dragging_anchor(anchor):
    anchor.set_as_toplevel(false) # Reverts to the original scene hierarchy

In conclusion, working with real-world coordinates, detecting and processing user interactions, and other hardware features can significantly enhance the realism and interactivity of AR applications. These code examples provide a starting point for you to expand upon. The true depth of AR experiences is limited only by creativity and understanding of these technical components. Learn, practice, and iterate, and you could be on your way to creating the next breakthrough AR experience with Godot 4 and XRAnchor3D!

Continue Your Game Development Journey

The world of game development is vast, and there’s always more to learn, practice, and master. If you’ve enjoyed diving into the intricacies of AR with XRAnchor3D in Godot 4 and crave to broaden your skillset, you’ve only scratched the surface of what’s possible. To truly harness your potential and continue evolving as a game developer, we encourage you to explore further.

Our Godot Game Development Mini-Degree is an excellent place to embark on or continue your Godot development adventure. It’s a comprehensive collection of courses that will help you build upon your foundational knowledge and take your skills to new heights. From creating immersive 2D and 3D games to mastering gameplay mechanics, the Mini-Degree has got you covered. You’ll create projects you can be proud of and that can showcase your talents to the world, all while learning at your own pace.

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Augmented reality is not just a symbol of futuristic technology; it’s an accessible tool for creators worldwide, and with Godot 4’s XRAnchor3D, you’re well-equipped to craft your own slice of AR magic. Every amazing journey starts with a single step, and your adventure into AR and game development continues with the skills you’ve garnered and the resources we offer at Zenva. Remember, the only limit is your imagination. Cultivate it with the right guidance, and watch your virtual worlds come to life in the real one.

Don’t let the learning stop here. Embrace the opportunities ahead and expand your developer toolkit with our Godot Game Development Mini-Degree. From novice to guru, step by step, project by project, see your dreams manifest into reality. We at Zenva are excited to see the incredible experiences you’ll create. Happy developing!

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