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Google announces ARCore, its answer to Apple's ARKit

31 August 2017

As Apple prepares a massive update to its iPhone operating system created to thrust augmented reality into the mainstream, Google is hatching its own plan to get augmented reality apps on millions of Android phones by next year.

'Today, we're releasing a preview of a new software development kit (SDK) called ARCore. Today, ARCore runs on the Google Pixel and Samsung's Galaxy S8.

While ARKit's capabilities are far from those of Google's now essentially dead Tango platform, the fact that the development tool has the potential to reach a wider audience when compared to competitors gives it an advantage in the burgeoning augmented reality space. Google promised ARCore will eventually work with 100 million existing and upcoming devices, including ones from Huawei, Asus, and LG.

Environmental understanding within ARCore is capable of detecting horizontal surfaces and responds with a map for placing objects.

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The two tech giants will now jockey for the attention of customers and software developers who will build the games, walking guides and other applications that would make AR a compelling feature for smartphones. It is now available on the Google Pixel and Samsung Galaxy S8, but by the end of this year, Google promises to have ARCore running on more than 100 million Android devices worldwide.

Announced earlier this summer at its developer conference, ARKit has caused a stir with companies looking to get on board with the platform to tie in their products and services ahead of its launch with iOS 11 next month. Ever since WWDC, Apple has been spotlighting things iOS developers have been creating with ARKit, and to put it mildly, they've been running circles around Tango. The phablet was an important milestone for mobile AR, and it was followed by the ASUS Zenfone AR this year. ARCore will enable the construction of AR apps on Android, the most widely used mobile platform on the globe. This is only one part of a grand scheme that is Google's future in augmented reality. Tango is Google's previous AR-focused effort, which requires a host of dedicated hardware on handsets that support it.

Unlike virtual reality, which completely blocks out the physical world, augmented reality overlays visuals and information onto a person's immediate surroundings - for example, when viewed through a smartphone or tablet screen.

Motion tracking: Using the phone's camera to observe feature points in the room and IMU sensor data, ARCore determines both the position and orientation (pose) of the phone as it moves.

Google announces ARCore, its answer to Apple's ARKit