Google takes on Apple’s ARKit with the launch of its ARCore augmented reality software
AR, VR, MR: they’re the future. Apple has already demonstrated its commitment to the technology with ARKit, and now Google wants a slice of the augmented reality pie.
The tech giant has today unveiled ARCore, a software development kit (SDK) for augmented reality that it plans to bring to all existing and future Android phones. If you’re not well-versed in the aforementioned acronyms, we’ve decoded them in a comprehensive guide to distorted realities. AR, to give a condensed explanation, stands for augmented reality – immersive computing that layers virtual elements onto the real world. Pokémon Go makes for a famous, not to mention accessible, example.
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Apple launched its own ARKit platform at the company’s Worldwide Developer’s Conference (WWDC) in June 2017. ARKit aims to provide developers with a suite of tools to make augmented reality apps, with the aid of devices’ high spec cameras and motion sensors.
Google’s ARCore has been similarly designed for developers, requires no extra hardware and is available from 29 August, 2017 for Google’s own Pixel devices and Samsung’s Galaxy S8, running Android 7.0 Nougat and above. Ultimately, Google plans to target 100 million devices by the end of the preview on 5 September.
ARCore works with Java/OpenGL, Unity and Unreal, and offers a particular focus on three elements of AR which Google claims distinguishes it from its heavyweight peers. Firstly, ARCore will focus on motion tracking, using a phone’s camera and IMU sensor data to determine position and orientation as the phone moves. This will create a more accurate, and thus realistic, placement of virtual objects.
The second focus of ARCore is on so-called “environmental understanding”. 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.
And ARCore’s third focus is that of light estimation, a development process which makes it easier for creators to light virtual objects in a way that corresponds to their surroundings, adding to the realistic and thus immersive effect of AR.
It’s not a self-contained project either; Google plans to introduce a host of apps and services to bolster the support provided to AR developers. One exciting element is called the Visual Positioning Service (VPS), which would enable world scale AR experiences “way beyond a tabletop”. VP of Android Engineering Dave Burke attested to the ever-growing portfolio of AR-compatible software: “We built Blocks and Tilt Brush to make it easy for anyone to quickly create great 3D content for use in AR apps.”
Steve Conine, co-founder and co-chairman of Wayfair and who worked with Google on the project said: “With the release of technology like ARCore, AR will reach a crucial tipping point toward mainstream adoption, enabling us to provide a lifelike, 3D ‘view-in-room’ experience for significantly more customers than we do today across the entire Android ecosystem.”
Buckle up folks – the future’s here, and it’s intangible. Let’s hope it doesn’t prove too, ahem, ARdcore.