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Google debuts AR software ARCore for Android devices

31 August 2017, 01:26 | Harold Aguilar

Google brings AR development to Android phones

Google launches ARCore SDK in preview: AR on Android phones, no extra hardware required

Not just because device users will either have to wait or buy new hardware to enjoy AR features in apps, but because developers may also choose to go iOS 11 first when it comes to deploying AR experiences.

ARCore is available for developers who have a Pixel or Galaxy S8 beginning today, and Google promises it will "have more to share later this year".

Although it has had an incredible augmented reality technology up its sleeves since 2014 with Tango, Google has not done much with it in the way of giving the mass consumer market access.

Essentially, the difference between the two is that Google Tango was an inherently hardware-based project while ARCore is evolving to launch as an open software platform.

However, unlike ARCore, that platform relied on purpose-built hardware with specialized sensors created to measure the distance of objects in the physical world - sensors that most phones and tablets lack.

Environmental understanding using motion tracking to detect surfaces.

Dubbed ARCore, the platform is available as a preview today; "developers can start experimenting with it right now", Dave Burke, VP of Android engineering, says in a blog post. Google said it aims to reach 100 million devices with the preview of the software and is also working with manufacturers such as Huawei, LG and Asus.

Google's ARcore technology relies on a process called "concurrent odometry and mapping" (COM for short) to determine the position of the phone relative to the environment around it. COM uses the phone's internal camera to scan the area and identify "visually distinct features", such as furniture. Whether Google planned this before Apple's ARKit was revealed is irrelevant - because begun, this AR war has. In many cases, virtual images placed in real-world settings appear jaggy or glitchy, sometimes floating awkwardly in space.

ARCore will run on Android 7.0 Nougat and newer operating system versions. It brings augmented reality capabilities to existing and future Android phones. ARCore uses Java/OpenGL, Unity and Unreal engines for motion tracking and environmental understanding to place virtual objects accurately, and light estimation, to ensure virtual objects match their surroundings, Burke noted.

Google wants to find ways for developers to bridge the divide between the two platforms such as the ARKit and the Android OS.

Didn't Google already have some like this? For Google, this means it can "scale" AR across Android ecosystem, without it being limited to a couple of specialised devices.

Augmented reality allows developers to overlay digital content on top of the real world. With the arrival of iOS 11, there will be a mass adoption of AR and ARCore is Google's answer to it.

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