Google unveils new augmented reality platform to take on Apple's ARKit

Handout Google AR

Google said it wants the platform to be compatible with 100 million devices by the end of the SDK preview, and said it's working with Samsung, Huawei, LG, ASUS and other manufacturers.

Google just announced a tool that will allow developers to write augmented reality apps for millions of Android devices. Even Pokémon Go, a smash hit when it was released in the summer of 2016, doesn't do a great job of mixing virtual creatures with reality as you see it through your smartphone screen.

"We've been developing the fundamental technologies that power mobile AR over the last three years with Tango, and ARCore is built on that work", says Android Engineering VP Dave Burke. What is different about ARCore (compared to other AR development tools), is that ARCore looks to bring AR functionality to a vast number of Android smartphones, quickly. ARCore will help further drive AR adoption by empowering developers to build and ship cross-platform AR experiences.

Google's ARCore lion in the middle of a street.

When Apple released ARKit at WWDC, Senior Vice President Craig Federighi claimed that it would be the "largest AR platform in the world", because there are already so many iPhones and iPads on the market. That is a technology that Google first showed off in 2014, which uses a combination of sensors and computer vision to help phones figure out precisely where they are in 3-D space, even in the absence of Global Positioning System. On top of support from Unity, Unreal Engine, and prominent AR developers like Wayfair and Niantic, Google has AR versions of VR darlings like Tilt Brush and Blocks so people can start creating in AR right away. But Tango required specialized hardware and after seeing its limited appeal and adoption, Google has chose to retire it. This will allow developers to adjust the the lighting and maybe even color of the virtual objects projected onto the real world, giving it a more realistic appearance and delivering a more believable experience. Its motion tracking smarts, meanwhile, use the phone's camera to observe a room and determine its position and orientation as its moves. ARCore can detect horizontal surfaces using the same feature points it uses for motion tracking, meaning AR objects can be placed on, say, a floor or table, more easily. This increases the level of immersion when using ARCore-powered apps. The company is now focusing on ARcore.

It will be available to developers i n preview beginning today. Developers can share their ARCore creations on social networks with the hashtag #ARCore and Google promises to reshare the most compelling examples.

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