Google doesn’t want to leave the next wave of augmented reality (AR) to Apple and Facebook, which is why the company released a preview of its own mobile-based AR platform to developers Tuesday. The software development kit, dubbed ARCore, is supposed to come to 100 million phones in the near future.
ARCore allows developers to build AR apps that display a phone’s camera view, and overlay digital objects. Some of the demos previewed by Google Tuesday include an app that allows users to add “portals” to hidden worlds to any physical surface, an app that makes cute animated characters pop up anywhere and an app that lets users throw digital objects, and have them shatter once they hit real walls or tables.
ARCore is based on work that Google has done as part of the Tango project, which evolved out of its Advanced Technologies and Projects (ATAP) group. Tango was using specialized mobile hardware for mobile augmented reality, but few manufacturers jumped on the bandwagon to build Tango-capable phones.
ARCore instead is designed to run on most modern Android phones, with Google making it available on its own Pixel phones and Samsung’s Galaxy S8 at launch. That’s clearly a response to Apple’s announcement to bring its own ARKit platform to hundreds of millions of new and recent iOS devices.
But Google is going one step further, and wants to find ways for developers to bridge the divide between the two platforms. The company is also working on bringing AR to the web browser, and eventually wants to allow developers to build AR experiences on the web that run on both Android and iOS, powered by both ARCore and ARKit. “We think the Web will be a critical component of the future of AR,” wrote Android VP Dave Burke in a blog post Tuesday.