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Apple already jumped into augmented reality with its ARKit. The largest AR platform worldwide seemed to emerge overnight. But where did this leave Google? What would this giant do next? Well, now we know…
Google has released a preview of a new software development kit (SDK) called ARCore, bringing AR capacities to existing and new Android phones. Developers can begin experimenting straight away. With over two billion active devices, it seems like Android is on its way towards the biggest mobile AR platform in the world. Google’s ARCore does not need additional hardware, working with Java/OpenGL, Unreal and Unity. If you happen to own a Pixel or Samsung S8, running 7.0 Nougat and above, then ARCore is suitable for your device. Google is seeking to target 100 million devices at the end of the preview. The company is already collaborating with the likes of Samsung, Huawei, LG, ASUS to realize this goal.
So, what does ARCore have on offer? Firstly, there is motion tracking. Using the phone’s camera to observe feature points in the room and IMU sensor data, ARCore determines both the position and orientation (pose) of the phone as it moves. Virtual objects remain accurately positioned. Another feature point is environmental understanding. AR objects are usually put on a table or floor. ARCore can detect horizontal surfaces via the same feature points it uses for motion tracking. And then there is light estimation. ARCore observes the ambient light and enables you to light virtual objects in manners that match their surroundings, which makes them look even more realistic. See some examples on the AR Experiments showcase.
Besides access to ARCore, Google is furthermore releasing prototype browsers for web developers, so they too can start experimenting with AR. These custom browsers allow developers to create AR-enhanced websites and run them on both Android/ARCore and iOS/ARKit. With ARKit for iOS launching in September and ARCore stirring matters for Android, AR will in the very near future become ever so accessible. It seems that AR is happening at last.