Google Joins Augmented Reality Showdown

Andre Parker August 30, 2017
Google Joins Augmented Reality Showdown

Alphabet Inc.’s Google is set to join the augmented reality clash as it debuts its ARCore on a limited preview starting today. ARCore will be a heavy rival of ARKit, which is Apple Inc.’s own attempt on augmented reality.

The new AR platform allows developers to tinker with the creation of games and experiences that place digital images and characters onto the real world. In other words, Android phones will be devices that superimpose digital objects onto the real world through the gadget’s screen.

Google has previously made an attempt on augmented reality with its Project Tango, but the difference between Tango and ARCore is that the latter doesn’t require any dual camera set up or any other kinds of depth sensor.

“We’ve been developing the fundamental technologies that power mobile AR over the last three years with Tango, and ARCore is built on that work. But, it works without any additional hardware, which means it can scale across the Android ecosystem,” Google stated in a blog post.

Google also added that ARCore will run on millions of devices, starting today with the Pixel and Samsung’s S8, and will use Android 7.0 Nougat and above.

“We’re working with manufacturers like Samsung, Huawei, LG, ASUS, and others to make this possible with a consistent bar for quality and high performance,” they added.

In the same blog post, Google enumerated the three main focuses of ARCore.

The first focus will be motion tracking, which will point to the locations of the images to be observed to determine both the position and orientation (pose) of the phone as it moves, so that virtual objects remain accurately placed.

Another focus is environmental understanding, in which ARCore can detect horizontal surfaces using the same feature points it uses for motion tracking.

Lastly, ARCore will also focus on light estimation, in which it observes and matches the lighting of the location to make the augmented objects look more realistic.

In the same blog post, Google also exhibited short videos and images that exhibit how ARCore will probably work, showing an effect similar to the Pokémon Go-game which was launched in the United States in July of last year.

However, according to analysts, Google will find it difficult to reach "everyone"--a countless number of devices--due to the different configurations of Android smartphones, which thus leads to the fragmentation of the Android ecosystem.

In June, Apple Inc. announced its own project on augmented reality features similar to ARCore, and called it ARKit. ARKit is set to be released this fall on “hundreds of millions” of devices. Apple is expected to find it easier to distribute ARKit to its devices since the company works on its own hardware and software.

Jan Dawson, who is the founder and chief analyst of Jackdaw Research, commented on the matter and said, “This is a classic example of where Apple’s ownership of the whole widget including both hardware and software is a huge advantage over device vendors dependent on Android and the broader value chain of component vendors.”

Other tech companies have also tipped augmented reality as the forefront of the next generation of computing experiences.

Months ago, Facebook announced its own augmented-reality platform called AR Studio. Microsoft, on the other hand, has been working on Hololens for years.

Apple Inc.’s chief executive officer Tim Cook described augmented reality as “big and profound” to investors, and added, “This is one of those huge things that we’ll look back at and marvel on the start of it.”

Google is considered to be late in joining the augmented reality showdown, but Clay Bavor, who is the company’s head of augmented and virtual reality, claims that they are “here to build great products that a lot of people use, and that likely means for those applications, being where the users are. That includes iOS,” indicating that Google designs tools to better interpret what users see, no matter what brand of device they use.


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Andre Parker
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