Google augments Android with ARCore

ARCore brings augmented reality to 100 million Androids, following Apple's ARKit lead

Android figurine

Google is bringing augmented reality to Android including the handset already in your pocket, assuming it runs Nougat or above.

The company has released a preview of a software development kit (SDK) for ARCore, which will offer augmented reality (AR) on Android phones. Dave Burke, vice-president of Android engineering, said in a blog postthat ARCore won't require new hardware.

"ARCore will run on millions of devices, starting today with the Pixel and Samsung's S8, running 7.0 Nougat and above," he said. "We're targeting 100 million devices at the end of the preview."

While that may sound impressive, it's a half-step behind Apple, which is bringing a similar AR technology to iPhones with ARKit in iOS 11, likely to land in September. Either way, it's clear both Google and Apple agree that the future of mobile is augmented.

ARCore is the result of Google's efforts with Tango, a project in its Advanced Technology and Projects Team (ATAP) that aims to help smartphones see the environment better. 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.

ARCore is ready for use by developers, Google said, and comes alongside other tools for building AR apps for Android as well as for the web, with Burke saying "we think the web will be a critical component of the future of AR".

Because of that, Google is also releasing "prototype browsers" so web developers can start working with AR. "These custom browsers allow developers to create AR-enhanced websites and run them on both Android/ARCore and iOS/ARKit," Burke said.

Google promised more details on the AR front will come later this year, but in the meantime, its AR Experiments showcase has "fun examples" of the sort of content that's possible.

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