Google Announces a New Augmented Reality Platform for Android

Posted on August 29, 2017 by Paul Thurrott in Android with 32 Comments

In what appears to be a belated response to Apple’s ARKit, Google today announced AR Core, its second take on an Android-based augmented reality platform.

“With more than two billion active devices, Android is the largest mobile platform in the world,” Google’s Dave Burke notes. “And for the past nine years, we’ve worked to create a rich set of tools, frameworks and APIs that deliver developers’ creations to people everywhere. Today, we’re releasing a preview of a new software development kit (SDK) called ARCore. It brings augmented reality capabilities to existing and future Android phones. Developers can start experimenting with it right now.”

As you may recall, Google previously offered an AR platform called Project Tango, and the first of only a handful of Tango-compatible devices, the Lenovo Phab 2 Pro, shipped in November 2016.

The problem with Tango, of course, is that device makers needed to specifically design their hardware to support this technology. So Google, finally, is addressing that major limitation with its AR Core mulligan: It will not require any special hardware.

“ARCore works without any additional hardware, which means it can scale across the Android ecosystem,” Burke says. “ARCore will run on millions of devices, starting today with the Pixel and Samsung’s S8, running 7.0 Nougat and above. We’re targeting 100 million devices at the end of the preview. We’re working with manufacturers like Samsung, Huawei, LG, ASUS and others to make this possible with a consistent bar for quality and high performance.”

ARCore focuses on three core capabilities: Motion tracking, environmental understanding, and light estimation. (Apple’s core capabilities for ARKit include those, plus scale estimation.)

The results, based on the demo video, are pretty impressive. As important, it looks about as good as Apple’s ARKit or Microsoft’s HoloLens with regards to realistically blending the artificial with the real.

And that’s a problem. For both Apple and Microsoft. As I noted early this year in Microsoft Just Lost the Augmented Reality Wave (Premium), “AR makes the most sense is out in the real world. And companies like Google and Apple already make the popular mobile platforms found in our smartphones … that we take out into the real world every day. So they are able to leverage this success to drive AR adoption and usage. And do so in a way that will be more desirable to actual users.”

And that is exactly what Apple, and now Google, are doing.

Game over for Microsoft? Obviously.


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