Technonlogy

Android ARCore lets developers create augmented reality experiences

Anna Parini

Augmented reality hype is ramping up. Snapchat and Instagram’s filters let you become a cute fluffy animal and the world has fallen in love with Pokémon Go.

Not to be beaten to the punch by rival Apple, Google has announced its own AR functionality for Android. Dubbed ARCore, the system is a software development kit (SDK) that will allow anyone to bring AR features to current Android phones without the need for hardware updates.

The preview of the technology is being made available from today for Google’s own Pixel and the Samsung Galaxy S8, as long as they are running at least the Nougat version of Android.

“We’re targeting 100 million devices at the end of the preview,” Google wrote in a blog post. Further down the line, this will also include devices from LG, Asus, Huawei and more. The firm has also added an experiments with AR page showing what the technology can do.

Google says ARCOre stems from its work on Tango. When introduced in 2015, Tango let people with compatible devices create detailed 3D maps of the world by pointing a camera at an object. The Lenovo PHAB2 Pro was the first Tango phone to be released.

With ARCore, Google says it is focussing on three things: motion tracking, environmental understanding, and light estimation. These will allow for a phone’s camera to detect feature points in a room, detect horizontal surfaces where AR objects can be placed and interpret lighting conditions so virtual objects can be correctly lit. The code works with Java/OpenGL, Unity and Unreal.

Google’s move into augmented reality should come as no surprise. At its developer conference this year, the firm said it was working on a new visual positioning service that helps phones understand where people are indoors. This is achieved by being able to detect what objects are in front of a device’s camera.

And then there’s Apple. When Apple’s iOS 11 is made available to the public later this year it will include ARKit. Announced at the Worldwide Developer Conference in June, ARKit lets iPhone and iPad developers create experiences that combine digital overlays on the real world.

ARKit experiments published to date include making inter-dimensional portals, dinner plates being placed on tables as previews, and the ability to land one of SpaceX’s rockets in your back garden. The @madewithARKit twitter user has been highlighting the best ARKit uses to date, giving a glimpse of what will be possible on Apple’s new system.




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