ARCore: Augmented reality at Android scale

Augmented reality first came into the picture in the late 1960s. In 1968, Ivan Sutherland developed the first head mounted display system. The system used computer generated graphics to show users simple wireframe drawings, but it wasn’t until 1990 the term augmented reality was coined. Boeing researcher, Tom Caudell, does the needful.

ARCore project

Mark Zuckerberg quoted “We’re making a long term bet that immersive, virtual and augmented reality will become a part of people’s daily lives”. Augmented reality has always been an investment for the future, and with the biggest names in the valley showcasing their years of hard work in the very same field, it’s safe to say that the future is here, almost.  

A couple of weeks ago Google announced the launch of ARCore; a baked-in augmented reality platforms for developers. This wasn’t the first time Google tried their hands on an augmented reality developing platform though. Their first attempt on an AR platform for developers was Project Tango.

Google said the Tango smartphone can capture a wealth of data never before available to app developers, including depth- and object-tracking and real-time 3D mapping. And it’s no bigger or more dependent on power than your typical smartphone.

“We’re making a long term bet that immersive, virtual and augmented reality will become a part of people’s daily lives”

– Mark Zuckerberg, CEO Facebook

Where Tango’s custom hardware requirements have left it languishing on mediocre smartphones, ARCore is less powerful but more accessible. It’s launching on the year-old Google Pixel and Samsung Galaxy S8 phones, supported by Android 7.0 Nougat as well as its recently released successor Android Oreo. An official launch is loosely planned for this winter, when Google promises ARCore will work with 100 million existing and upcoming devices, according to The Verge.

The company’s head of augmented and virtual reality, Clay Bavor, describes ARCore as an intentional long-term outgrowth of Tango. “Our approach with Tango was to un-constrain ourselves,” Bavor says. “That really let us learn a lot, figure out what the use cases are, and push forward the technology — out ahead of what would have been possible with standard smartphone hardware.” Google released a couple of consumer products with Tango, but they’ve had little mainstream appeal. Meanwhile, he says, Google was taking key pieces and adapting them for ordinary phones, where they could work without Tango’s two extra cameras.

People have already been experimenting on the new platform. If we look at the experiments most developers choose ARCore as their software kit. But several examples use Tango instead. So the future of Tango is still unclear.

Next up on the list of tech giants from the valley is Apple. Apple is the newest player in the race to attain supremacy in AR, something that Google, Microsoft, and many others have been experimenting with for a long time. Apple is far from being able to claim it invented AR, but its new ARKit in iOS 11 is already showing signs to suggest that Apple will help bring AR into the mainstream faster and better than anyone else, and according to Mashable, Apple is already winning the AR war against Google.

“[ARKit and ARCore] both have great functionality without appreciable differences,” says Beck Besecker, CEO and co-founder of Marxent, an AR and VR software firm that has built prototype apps using both ARKit and ARCore. “Combined, they lend significant momentum to mass market augmented reality experiences. It’s a big wake up call to both investors and developers that the technology to support AR experiences is here, and that now is the time to take advantage.” 

“AR represents the beginning of a fundamental shift in how we perceive and interact with physical and digital environments by merging them,” says Scott Flynn, director of development for AR and VR at Unity, which is working to support both AR platforms. “At its core, [AR] will remove the barriers between us and the intrinsic data associated with every object, person, or place in the world.” 

ARCore Lion

The only problem with the whole charade is we are yet to see a truly popular non-gaming application which uses augmented reality. So one can infer that most firms are limiting the use of augmented reality for enhancing your gaming experience. We have already seen it in the past with applications such as Pokémon Go. Titles coming from the makers of Star Wars are already generating excitement. But beyond gaming, the uses for AR are still somewhat murky. 

The one thing that is crystal in this whole charade is that everybody in the valley is investing in augmented reality and the wars have just begun.

Let’s get you started :

ARCore Website: https://developers.google.com/ar/

Google AR Experiments: https://experiments.withgoogle.com/ar

ARKit Website: https://developer.apple.com/arkit/

ARKit Showcase: http://www.madewitharkit.com/