Earlier this year, Apple created a Tsunami with its release of its Augmented Reality toolkit, the ARKit. Those of us who thought Google‘S AR Division was still lagging far behind with dreams of Tango were happily surprised when Fast Company first reported the news of this launch a few hours ago!
Google’s Augmented Reality division is today taking a significant step forward as it unveils an entirely new developer platform – ARCore. Developers will be able to leverage ARCore’s native libraries and APIs to effortlessly build AR-based applications as well as games.
Developers can start experimenting with it right now. https://developers.google.com/ar/.
There’s one substantial difference between Tango and ARCore. The latter can superimpose digital objects in the real world without the need of any sort of special sensors and equipment. This essentially makes it a direct counterpart of Apple ARKit which has been receiving a ton of spotlight.
ARCore will lead to AR apps and games that you’ll be able to run on virtually any existing and forthcoming Android smartphone. It will, as you’d expect, utilize your phone’s camera to evaluate the position, your movement and the location of horizontal surfaces around you to accurately place the objects. Furthermore, ARCore will also allow apps to determine the ambient light in a particular area so that these objects can reflect light in a more realistic way.
For the moment, ARCore will be limited to Google’s own Pixel line of phones and Samsung’s S8 series with Android Nougat and above. The company says more devices will follow soon and is targeting 100 million devices at the end of the preview program.
Google ARCore certainly sounds like a substantial upgrade from Tango which still hasn’t quite caught up despite the fact it was launched in 2014, an eternity in Technology. Tango never really picked up any steam, primarily because it cannot function unless the OEM specifically adds the required components to their smartphones. The company is also expected to announce its next flagship in October – the second-generation Pixel lineup which obviously should leverage the technology in the best way possible as Google now manages the hardware part as well.
Powering millions of devices, Android will have one of the most prominent impacts in making Augmented Reality truly mainstream, just like Apple’s AR Kit has been doing so far.
However, like every other software framework, Google ARCore’s success also comes down to how well it is received by developers. Augmented Reality, in general, is progressing every day with apps like Holo and Pokemon Go. With a native integration with ARCore, developers won’t have to rely on third party solutions and build comparatively more capable and stable applications. Nevertheless, we should be able to learn more in the coming weeks as the platform becomes widely available.
Google is not holding back in terms of wooing developers. ARCore works with Java/OpenGL, Unity, and Unreal Engine. To make my point: Epic told VentureBeat it is shipping ARCore support in Unreal Engine 4.18, which will be released in mid-October. Version 4.18 preview builds will be released to developers “in a few weeks.”
ARCore isn’t the only augmented/virtual reality initiative at Google. But ARCore is the company’s boldest project yet. ARCore and its ties to Android will undoubtedly be compared to Apple’s ARKit and iOS, which we’ll be hearing more about next month.
“We’ve been developing the fundamental technologies that power mobile AR over the last three years with Tango, and ARCore is built on that work. Developers who have already developed on the Tango platform can use that experience to help them create on the ARCore platform.”, says Android Engineering VP Dave Burke in today’s blog post.