The augmented reality platform for Android is here!

Otis Hoffman
August 31, 2017

ARCore allows developers to build AR apps that display a phone's camera view, and overlay digital objects.

A couple of months after chief mobile rival Apple unveiled its augmented reality (AR) software development suited, ARKit, Alphabet Inc (NASDAQ:GOOGL) is responding with a new AR platform of its own. A continuation of Google's Tango AR computing platform, ARCore does not need any additional hardware to function, so all new devices running Android are ready to go. ARCore can detect horizontal surfaces using the same feature points it uses for motion tracking. ARCore also observes the ambient light in the environment and allows developers to light virtual objects in ways that match, making them appear even more realistic - this is the light estimation part.

A preview of the technology is available to developers today and supports Java/OpenGL, Unity, and Unreal AR development tools.

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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.

In addition to Samsung, Google is reaching out to Huawei, LG, Asus and others with information and guidance on how to make their future phones compatible with ARCore.

The Silicon Valley Company said it will release a preview of the new software kit today.

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The key is that, unlike Google's past efforts, no special hardware will be required to run those apps beyond the standard camera built into most smartphones. Virtual objects remain accurately placed.

Google is no a stranger to augmented reality by any means thanks to Project Tango, but that project might not have been the flawless match for the general consumer. This is Google's AR experience for "normal phones". While the full immersion of a VR headset may have a higher wow factor than AR, the practicality of augmented reality-measuring, shopping, traveling, and performing other actions atop the real world-are greater.

Then in June, at its annual developers conference, Apple announced its own augmented reality platform, ARKit, with one key difference: unlike Project Tango, Apple's augmented reality apps could run on any recently made iPhone or iPad and beyond. First, motion tracking. With ARCore, the phone's camera can observe and gather data about the room in order to determine the position and orientation of the phone as it moves about.

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Google promised more details on the AR front will come later this year, but in the meantime, its AR Experiments showcase has "fun examples" of the sort of content that's possible.

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