Google has today announced and released a new Android development tool, ARCore. The announcement details two aspects in particular, the release of the supporting SDK for developers to start using, and what is essentially an imminent release of a preview version of the feature to select smartphones. What is different about ARCore (compared to other AR development tools), is that ARCore looks to bring AR functionality to a vast number of Android smartphones, quickly. Not only new and upcoming Android phones, but also a wide number of Android phones already on the market.
What ARCore looks to do is combine the most common aspects of AR and make them available on a greater range of devices. This includes utilizing existing cameras on smartphones to generate motion tracking features. ARCore essentially understands where a phone is, how it moves, and combines that information with what the camera sees, targeting focal points to ensure that virtual objects are positioned correctly and remain correctly positioned as the user moves the phone. By the same token ARCore is just as capable at understanding and incorporating vertical data. For instance, seeing a table, understanding the table is higher than other objects, and keeping those distance and height ratios static when in view. Google even explains that ARCore has the ability for developers to make better use of room and environment lighting, with a view to ensuring that virtual objects in frame appear as realistic as possible - by matching their environments at the lighting level.
In many ways it seems ARCore is designed to work as a complement to Google's Tango. While Tango is the high-end and system-level approach to AR functionality on mobile, it is a platform that largely relies on the necessary hardware being included to begin with. By design, Tango can only bring AR features to phones that have the right internal makeup and usually at an added cost. While ARCore has been developed off the back of Tango’s technology, it is this much wider compatibility that will allow the two products to co-exist. Google has even confirmed that it has been working behind the scenes with a number of third-party device makers (such as ASUS, Huawei, LG, and Samsung) to ensure the benefits of ARCore reach as many devices as possible, and as quickly as possible. Speaking of which, Google has also confirmed that the Google Pixel and the Samsung Galaxy S8 will be the first devices to reap the benefits of ARCore. The only really caveat that seems to be in play is that devices need to be running Android 7.0 (Nougat) as a minimum to be compatible with ARCore. Other than that, regardless of the phone, its cost, specs, or hardware, any Android smartphone will be able to take advantage of this new AR functionality. To put the scale of Google's ambitions for ARCore into perspective, although it is only a preview version that is being released today, Google expects by the time the preview period ends, as many as 100 million devices will be equipped with (or capable of using) the technology. For more details on ARCore, including links for developers, as well as examples of some of the functionality that Android device owners can expect, head through the links below.