AR is happening.
When Apple first introduced ARKit back in June at WWDC, we were blown away. Apple’s massive leap into augmented reality with no additional sensors or hardware, only the phone in your pocket, seemingly opened up the largest AR platform in the world overnight.
And as developers continued to experiment with the ARKit platform, creating some pretty killer apps, it left us scratching our heads wondering where Google fell into this mix now. Google has been investing heavily on the hardware side with Tango, requiring specialized devices to augment our reality. But it’s no software update, making the barrier to entry and adoption out of reach for many consumers.
It looks like Google had something up their sleeves the whole time.
ARCore: Augmented reality at Android scale
Launching today, Google is releasing a preview of a new software development kit (SDK) called ARCore, bringing augmented reality capabilities to existing and future Android phones. The best part, developers can start experimenting with it right now.
With more than two billion active devices, it now looks like Android may be on its way to the largest mobile AR platform in the world.
Taking much of what they learned and built already with Tango since 2014, Google’s ARCore doesn’t require any additional hardware and works with Java/OpenGL, Unity and Unreal. And if you own a Pixel or Samsung S8, running 7.0 Nougat and above, ARCore is ready to run on your device starting today.
Google is looking to target 100 million devices at the end of the preview and is already working with manufacturers like Samsung, Huawei, LG, ASUS and others to make it all possible.
So what’s possible with ARCore? You can check out a number of examples on the AR Experiments showcase, many of which focus on the following features:
Motion tracking: Using the phone’s camera to observe feature points in the room and IMU sensor data, ARCore determines both the position and orientation (pose) of the phone as it moves. Virtual objects remain accurately placed.
Environmental understanding: It’s common for AR objects to be placed on a floor or a table. ARCore can detect horizontal surfaces using the same feature points it uses for motion tracking.
Light estimation: ARCore observes the ambient light in the environment and makes it possible for you to light virtual objects in ways that match their surroundings, making their appearance even more realistic.
In addition to access to ARCore, Google is also releasing prototype browsers for web developers so they can start experimenting with AR as well, something we know (WebAR) will be a critical component to the future of AR. These custom browsers allow developers to create AR-enhanced websites and run them on both Android/ARCore and iOS/ARKit.
With ARKit for iOS launching to the public in September and ARCore kicking things off for Android, AR will be more accessible than ever. So it looks like things are happening, AR is finally happening.
Image Credit: Google