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ARCore is Google’s Second Take on Augmented Reality

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After launching Project Tango a few years ago, Google has announced a new augmented reality (AR) initiative, ARCore, which aims to bring AR to millions of Android devices.

Contrary to Project Tango, which was limited to two mobile devices including special hardware, ARCore works without any additional hardware and is able to run today on Google Pixel and Samsung S8 smartphones, using Android 7.0 Nougat and above. Still, says Google, ARCore is built on the work done during the last three years for Project Tango.

ARCore can be used with Java/OpenGL, Unity, and Unreal, and covers three functionality areas:

  • Motion tracking, aimed to determine both the position and orientation (pose) of the phone as it moves so virtual objects can be placed accurately.
  • Surface detection, which allows to place objects within the environment and anchor them to horizontal surfaces like the floor or a table.
  • Light estimation, to make it possible to light virtual objects in more realistic ways.

Google has also created two new apps, Blocks and Tilt Brush, to create 3D content for AR apps running on the HTC Vive or the Oculus Rift.

Google’s ARCore announcement closely follows Apple ARKit’s, which shares the same goal of powering AR apps on regular phones. Additionally, the two SDKs provide a similar set of features. As InfoQ reported, ARKit is currently in beta and will be officially part of iOS 11.

ARCore is available to developers as a preview SDK together with a set of demos to allow them start experimenting with the new technology. According to Ron Amadeo, reporting for Ars Technica, ARCore 1.0 is expected to be released this winter and be available for more than 100 million Android users.

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