Google launches ARCore for Android

Google launches ARCore for Android

Google has unveiled tools to make augmented reality (AR) apps for mobile devices using the Android operating system, in readiness for its latest showdown with Apple's iPhone over next-generation smartphone features.

While ARCore now only works on Google's Pixel and Samsung's Galaxy S8 running Android 7.0 Nougat or higher, the aim is to bring it to all newer Android phones. Google will work with its hardware partners Samsung, Huawei, LG, and Asus to make sure more than 100 million devices are compatible with upcoming mixed-reality content.

The race to see who will conquer the augmented reality market is heating up, with Google on Tuesday announcing its own developer tools to create AR apps for Android. ARCore is a development platform that will allow Android app developers to quickly and easily build AR experiences into their apps and games.

The software can also detect common stationary locations where objects can be placed - such as floors, tables and countertops.

ARCore is created to work on millions of existing Android devices and does not require special depth sensors or dual cameras. We thought mobile smartphone-based AR was going to be a thing that was important years ago.

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In his blog post, Burke notes that Google built ARCore on the work it did for Project Tango, which saw the search titan partner with Lenovo and Asus.

What Google hopes will give it the edge over Apple's platform is that it has been built with the explicit objective of working on most Android devices, not just ones with specific hardware.

The announcement comes almost three months after Apple announced its own augmented reality development platform for developers, called ARKit, in June.

A preview release of Google's ARcore SDK is available now, but it presently works on only three devices. Hypothetically, developers could use ARCore to let your phone point out specific buildings or street corners or pinpoint indoor locations within a few centimeters. The first, motion tracking, uses the position of your phone to ensure that virtual objects are placed appropriately as you move. Google isn't ditching any of its fancy depth sensors or cameras it developed for the Tango platform. With light estimation capabilities, developers can adjust lighting to make AR experiences seem more realistic.

In the case of AR, overlaying the virtual world on top of reality, Apple wants people to associate the tech with more than just Pokemon Go and dancing hot dog Snapchat filters. Google's Visual Positioning Service (VPS) that debuted at Google I/O, however, is still in the works. On this front Google and Microsoft are way ahead, but that did not stop Reuters insisting it was all about phones. Likewise, there has been no word on whether ARCore will come to popular Unity competitor Unreal Engine 4.