Google’s ARCore set to take on Apple’s ARKit

Alex Kidman 30 August 2017 NEWS

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The next big smartphone battle will be fought in Augmented Reality.

Google has announced an update to its Augmented Reality platform in the form of ARCore, a platform that essentially replaces the not-terribly-well-received Tango AR with a more open approach that, according to the company, will build on the work done with Tango to provide an Augmented Reality experience across a wide range of Android devices while removing the need for any additional hardware at all.

Google says that it's working "with manufacturers like Samsung, Huawei, LG, ASUS and others to make this possible with a consistent bar for quality and high performance" for ARCore. It has only announced the software at this stage, so it's not yet clear which devices it's likely to work on. Google states that it will reveal more before the end of the year, which suggests it's likely to be a core sales proposition for the Google Pixel XL 2.

According to Google, ARCore works across three fundamental technologies:

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. Virtual objects remain accurately placed.

Environmental understanding: It’s common for AR objects to be placed on a floor or a table. ARCore can detect horizontal surfaces using the same feature points it uses for motion tracking.

Light estimation: ARCore observes the ambient light in the environment and makes it possible for developers to light virtual objects in ways that match their surroundings, making their appearance even more realistic.

ARCore will be in competition with Apple's ARKit, which is a central part of the new iOS 11 operating system expected to debut in the iPhone 8. Apple hasn't set strict timeframes for when iOS 11 will make its full debut, but with the launch event for the new iPhones apparently set for 12 September, it's likely to reach compatible iOS devices by around mid-October at the latest.

Not every iOS device will get the full benefit of ARKit. Google's promises of wide device compatibility for ARCore suggests that it may come to a wider range of handsets, although given its reliance on camera technology, it's more likely to work well with premium or at least mid-range Android devices.

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