Google wants to bring augmented reality to '100 million' devices this winter

The launch of ARCore comes after Apple announced in June the launch of ARKit, allowing developers to build AR experiences for iPhones and iPads.

Augmented reality has come a far way from where it was, just a few years ago - two leading smartphone players, Apple and Google are bringing it back post the failure of Google Glasses in 2013-14. Google is also opening up ARCore to the web, describing it as "a critical component of the future of AR" and releasing prototype browsers for web developers to experiment with AR (on both Android/ARCore and iOS/ARKit). Unlike Google's Tango technology, ARKit from Apple is able to work on millions of devices that are already available in people's hands.

By means of your phone's camera (no additional hardware), ARCore knows where it stands as the device moves and can accurately place objects in space and keep them pinned down.

Google says that by the end of the year it will have expanded ARCore to work with a string of other devices from the likes of Huawei, Asus and LG. Just like ARKit, Google's ARCore just needs your phone. This is a crucial difference and divergence from Project Tango where smartphones required special sensors, and hardware along with the software capabilities for the Augmented Reality experience.

ARCore pinpoints where different objects are, such as a table, and how virtual objects can be placed within that area. ARCore is expected to eventually run on "millions of devices". At that time, the developers were focusing on creating a phone with extra sensors to implement augmented reality. It's as if they're sending a message to Android users and developers that we're not in Kansas anymore.

That estimate assumes that Apple and its rivals will expand beyond AR software to high-tech glasses and other devices, such as Microsoft's HoloLens headset.

What Google hopes will give it the edge over Apple's platform is that it has been built with the explicit objective of working on most Android devices, not just ones with specific hardware. You can see below how devs used ARCore to put digital characters in the real world.

Google expressed excitement to be working closely with Unity again, with AR and VR vice president Clay Bavor saying that this release is a step toward bringing AR and VR technologies to the masses, a goal that Google and Unity both share. Google's blogpost explains that ARCore is a software development kit (SDK) for developers and it will provide them with a range of tools, APIs, etc to help deliver the AR experience on their apps for Android smartphones.

  • Fernando Stephens