ARCore is Google's answer to Apple's ARKit – augmented reality for the masses, no dual cameras required

Google on Tuesday unveiled ARCore – a new software development kit that aims to bring augmented reality to millions of existing and future Android phones. No dual cameras or depth sensors required! But wait, what about Tango?

Google launched Tango in 2014, and it is still one of the most advanced AR platforms for mobile devices, but it demands special hardware to work and is thus available on a very limited number of devices that severely lack broader appeal. But seeing as how Apple has managed to bring AR to the iPhone in a much simpler way with its ARKit framework, Google has too decided to launch its own, simplified AR software framework that will be available on a much, much broader scope of devices that Tango.

But enough about Tango, let's see what makes ARCore special.

Much like ARKit, ARCore is made to function on devices without specialized sensors for sensing depth, and as such, is not perfect by any means, but it is widely available and easily accessible. It is currently 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.

ARCore is a versatile SDK that works with Java/OpenGL, Unity, and Unreal Engine, and focuses on three things to achieve its goal of delivering the AR experience to a broad audience:

  • 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 is 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.

Motion tracking and environmental awareness are two of the most basic prerequisites for an adequate AR experience – objects in AR have to "stick" to surfaces (that is, stay where they are in relation to real objects) and change perspective in relation to the user's point of view. But light estimation is one of the more interesting traits of ARCore, and it makes objects in AR react to changes in the environmental light in real time. This means that 3D objects can change exposure (i.e. become dimmer or brighter) depending on how well-lit your environment is, and also cast dynamic shadows in different directions. Pretty basic stuff but it sure does look cool and it adds to the overall experience.

With ARCore, Google is not trying to compete with its own, dedicated AR platform, but is rather aiming to bring augmented reality to the hands of millions and to make development for the new platform a breeze. ARCore launches on two popular devices,the Google Pixel and the Galaxy S8, and it doesn't require any special hardware to run. Google also says it's working with all major Android phone manufacturers to bring ARCore to existing and future devices. Will Google succeed in making this platform ubiquitous in the long run? Remains to be seen.

In the mean time, check out this sweet ARCore teaser that Google just released:

source: Google



1. joey_sfb

Posts: 6794; Member since: Mar 29, 2012

"But seeing as how Apple has managed to bring AR to the iPhone in a much simpler way with its ARKit framework, Google has too decided to launch its own, simplified AR software framework that will be available on a much, much broader scope of devices that Tango." Yeah right! PA has made the assumption that Google follows Apple. If that the case, Google must be super efficient they could develop an AR kit in months while Apple took years.

2. trojan_horse

Posts: 5868; Member since: May 06, 2016

Savage. Good point though.

20. sgodsell

Posts: 7622; Member since: Mar 16, 2013

Google's ARCore works with any Android smartphone or tablet that supports Android version 19 and above, or KitKat and higher. So a lot of devices are supported. But naturally you need a good camera, and fast enough device to handle the AR as well. Also Google's ARCore is a matter of adding one library to a developers project. Try to make it sound like it's so much harder than Apple's ARkit. Give me a break. Plus developers and users can use Googles ARCore today. Apple's ARkit is baked into iOS 11. But at the end of the day. If users want to have the speed and accuracy of Tango, then you need hardware. The same goes for Apple's ARkit, where you need hardware like IR cameras and depth sensing cameras that will give you the real accuracy.

12. toukale

Posts: 672; Member since: Jun 10, 2015

@joey_sfb - Actually that is exactly what happened. Tango was going no where and Google tried for over 2 years and no one budge. You are assuming Google did what they did from scratch, which is nonsense. They already had all the tools from tango, all they did was create new framework, api's (which is not final by any stretch). This is just a preview, I bet this thing will not be fully flushed out till next year. This was a quick reaction to arkit, and Google did what I always expect from some of the Chinese vendors whenever Apple is ready to launch something that's been in the news for months. Which is to come out right before and said (first). This was all a pr move in anticipation of the iPhone announcement in 2 weeks. It's a shame became it makes them look weak and unprepared. There was no need for that kind of reaction. It's not like people did not know about them working on AR, they just wanted to be part of the conversation that's been going on all summer with ARkit.

23. vincelongman

Posts: 5817; Member since: Feb 10, 2013

Tango is still ongoing as far as we know But Tango is too expensive to implement at the moment ARCore is entry level like Daydream/GearVR, whereas Tango is another level up like Vive/Oculus Google are targeting 200m device at launch This is not a PR move, it's Google stepping up their AR efforts to match Apple's Similar to how Apple bought Flyby Media (who's tech was made into to ARKit) shortly after Google announced their partnership with Lenovo on a Tango at CES 2016

27. toukale

Posts: 672; Member since: Jun 10, 2015

@vincelongman - Look, non of those companies are new to AR, AR is not new tech and neither is the inventor of the tech. We are talking about the approach each one have taken. Google like Microsoft Hololens took the hardware approach to AR, for 2 years tango went nowhere. Apple took the software approach for more device supports with hardware in the new iPhone. That approach is the thing Google seems embrace here. For some reasons, everything tech related needs to be a zero sum game for some here. Apple have their own platform, they are simply launching something to enhance their platform. Google having failed to get tango supports for the past few years are embracing the software approach template Apple is taken. There is nothing wrong with realizing that someone has a better approach than you and adjust/adapt that approach into yours.

33. joey_sfb

Posts: 6794; Member since: Mar 29, 2012

toukale, I agree with your observation. Nevertheless, the tech is there and Google is making it free to use. If SOC company such as Qualcomm and MediaTek add hardware support to Tango like they did with a dual camera as a standard then there a greater chance for real AR with depth analysis to pick up. So, Apple contribution is to create awareness, once that is done everyone might get hook on AR. Google would easily port tango into iOS like they did with everything else. That's a win win for the consumer.

3. trojan_horse

Posts: 5868; Member since: May 06, 2016

"ARCore is made to function on devices without specialized sensors for sensing depth, and as such, is not perfect by any means" Which means Tango is the way to go for true AR experience. Enough said.

13. toukale

Posts: 672; Member since: Jun 10, 2015

It is, but this was simply a reaction to ARkit. Google realize how much excitements there were around the developer community around ARkit and could not resist not being part of the conversation. AR on the phone/tablet is the first inning. The goal is AR glasses, which is a few years away, meanwhile you get the platform and apps ready till then. This is what ARkit's role is in the meantime, it's the reason Google is putting tango on the side and embracing the approach taken by Apple.

4. trojan_horse

Posts: 5868; Member since: May 06, 2016

"ARCore is made to function on devices without specialized sensors for sensing depth, and as such, is not perfect by any means" Which means Tango is the way to go for true AR experience. Enough said.

5. vliang86

Posts: 337; Member since: Oct 05, 2015

I bet the developers will still make better and more optimized VR apps on iOS than Android. Why? Because Apple already has the largest user base for high-end phones (e.g. iPhone 6s) and IOS is not as fragmented as Android. Imagine trying to optimize the same app for the 50 high-end Android phones.

6. joey_sfb

Posts: 6794; Member since: Mar 29, 2012

You mean more optimized AR apps on iOS right? Because in term of VR apps there's next to nothing on iOS. Back to the point of AR apps, other than Pokemon which is available on both iOS and Android could you name another hot AR app that is running on iOS that get everyone excited to switch from Android to iOS? Just name one.

9. RebelwithoutaClue unregistered

Apart from screen resolution, there is hardly any optimizing done for each phone. And most high-ends have either FHD or QHD. So optimizing the app is hardly a chore for high-ends

11. MrShazam

Posts: 987; Member since: Jun 22, 2017

"Imagine trying to optimize the same app for the 50 high-end Android phones." Someone clearly has no clue of what Android Studio has been offering for years. Get with the times kid, Android studio has long been making the process of optimizing apps for all Android devices fast and simple.

8. Stranger

Posts: 73; Member since: Jan 19, 2017

It would be interesting to see what this means for the standalone daydream headset that google will launch this year.

14. toukale

Posts: 672; Member since: Jun 10, 2015

It will mean jack currently, this was not part of the roadmap, it's simply a quick reaction to ARkit.

24. Bankz

Posts: 2550; Member since: Apr 08, 2016

Exactly. U can even see it from their scrappy announcement of it. Lmao. Google doesnt want to be left out so they huridly had to come up with an half assed attempt that wasnt even part of their road map. They all of a sudden forgot about their tango and even had to change the name altogether. I bet this will see the light of day by 2019. Arkit is going to destroy the competition.

29. Stranger

Posts: 73; Member since: Jan 19, 2017

According to verge, who have actually used both ARkit and ARcore , googles implementation is superior , and if u will combine these with the dedicated standalone headsets, i think google MIGHT be at an advantage. And finally APPLE'S ARKIT IS BASED ON GOOGLES AR OPEN SOURCE CODES. and saying that google did this in a month or two is hilarious.

16. path45th

Posts: 407; Member since: Sep 11, 2016

It's nice to see how Apple shows all the rest how to properly implement new technology. It's not a coincidence that it's the original iPhone that made history and not Samsung Galaxy S1 or Android.

17. Scott93274

Posts: 6043; Member since: Aug 06, 2013

Because Apple Maps was such a step above Google Maps when Apple implemented it, and didn't have any problems at all, and forcing Google Maps off their phone initially was totally the right move and in the best interests of the iPhone users. And it's not like they tried and failed to copy Google's new Photo app when they had released it a couple years back, And Siri is sooooo much better than Google Assistant. No, I'm sorry buddy, but you give Apple way too much credit.

18. toukale

Posts: 672; Member since: Jun 10, 2015

You know, others can point out the failures of every company out there. You don't have to like Apple, but there is no question they are typically great and better than others out there at applying and morphing techs that makes is approachable to the masses. Their track records speaks for themselves vs any others.

19. Scott93274

Posts: 6043; Member since: Aug 06, 2013

They have in fact done very well for themselves, but as a company who was the very first to the NEW smartphone market with an alleged superior product, you would think that their market share would be more than 14% compared to Google's 85% with Android. When it comes down to it, Google offers something that Apple never will, and that is variety. You can say that the iPhone is better than Google's Pixel phone and I'll argue with you all day and night on the issue, but as it stands, that's a subjective issue and only a single phone VS a single phone. But if there was something more important to the general consumer than stock OS with fast updates then Google's platform is the only option there is as Apple doesn't offer anything unique or exciting, year after year, they release the same phone with a faster processor, more RAM, and maybe a larger display. That's nothing compared to modular phones with shatter proof displays, devices with wireless charging, flexible phones, phones with 5,000 mAh batteries that last for several days, 1440 displays, phones with expandable storage allowing for several hundred GBs of additional storage at a fraction of the cost of built in storage. My daughter's phone has an FM radio receiver that she uses every day and that's an awesome feature that Apple's never included in their phones... Face it, Google's Pixel is their answer to Apple's iPhone, it stacks up in regards to performance, security, and reliability, but Apple has absolutely no answer to Google's Android which allows the consumer to pick the device that's best for them, and so far, 85% of smart phone users choose not to go with the iPhone.

21. toukale

Posts: 672; Member since: Jun 10, 2015

@Scott93274 - What are you talking about here? How did that turn into a market shares argument? Why is this the answer for every android argument vs iOS? People who keep using this stale argument tells me everything I need to know about their lack of knowledge about platforms, business models employ by each company. So I will not waste my time there.

30. Scott93274

Posts: 6043; Member since: Aug 06, 2013

Market share is relevant to the topic in the sense that it backs up my statement that best or "better implemented" is subjective to the user and people purchase the phone that's best for them, market share supports my statement that Apple is not definitively regarded as the developer of the best smartphone. Hell, I've read time and time again that the best apps on the iPhone are for Google services. You can't tell me one thing that the iPhone does better than any other phone and it not be subjective. So with that taken into account, you have to simply go with the numbers, and the numbers are not on iOS's side. It's the same logic that goes into the blind camera tests that they perform on this site, like up three photos of the same subject taken with 3 separate phones not identifying which phone took which photo, and you will statistically have votes for all three photos, but one will likely get many many more votes than the rest. Is that photo better than the other two? It's a subjective question, but you can answer properly because you have a metric to gauge what people think. And in regards to the overall phone, it's market share.

26. Bankz

Posts: 2550; Member since: Apr 08, 2016

Lol, that means nothing. Android is only widely used because ..... Its open sourced and thats all there is to it. Its only a choice that apple decided to be closed sourced. Apple the mother of the modern smartphone that every phone is based on today and theres a reason they're the most valuable company on the surface of the earth. I bet an average joe will buy a 3 year old iphone than those modular crap u mention and when the iphone 8 comes out, it will be the most specced and the most featured stand alone of on the planet.

31. Scott93274

Posts: 6043; Member since: Aug 06, 2013

See, now you're just being a fan boy. I remember we were about sapphire glass displays this far away from an iPhone reveal and everyone was bragging about how sapphire glass was going to make it the best phone ever, and then nothing. So the only thing you THINK you know about the phone is what has been leaked by just as unreliable sources and yet you think that it's going to be the most feature rich device on the market? Smaller bezels and no physical home button are not features to brag about over an Android device. And also, I've seen the new iOS, there are no killer features in there that anyone sporting an Android device would even care about. Granted, this time around, Android 8 doesn't have too many exciting new features, but performance has seen a significant boost. I've seen a Pixel phone on beta Android 8 smoke an iPhone on beta iOS in every time test except when opening games, which took a whole half second longer. So when performance is concerned, Android as an OS has passed iOS in speed, especially if you want to take into account that last year's iPhone did have a faster process than the Pixel, and it lost in spite of this. And who gives a crap if they're the most valuable company in the world, that doesn't mean their product is the best, it simply means that people pay more for their crap, and you can chalk that up to people simply buying the phone because they're zombies to the brand. Also, being the first does not mean that you're the best, it simply means you had a head start in the race. But I'm curious, what to you makes the iPhone so much better than anything else out there? And please try to reference something that's not subjective?

25. Bankz

Posts: 2550; Member since: Apr 08, 2016

Siri is basically the mother of all voice assistance dude. And if not for apples strong stance on security, siri will probably blow the competition away. But, yeah google assistant is top dog today, that i can agree with.

32. Scott93274

Posts: 6043; Member since: Aug 06, 2013

"Google Assistant is top dog today", I'm glad that we can agree with that, but in all honesty, I don't use Google assistant all that much. I'm simply excited about the future potential of virtual assistants (Especially in regards to home automation) and just at the moment, Google's ahead. But so long as both continue to develop, who cares.... It's an exciting feature.

28. Stappy3

Posts: 108; Member since: Dec 09, 2015

Just don't leave 2016 devices (Oneplus 3T for the love of all that is holy!) out of the dust ok?

34. alexeyporubay

Posts: 2; Member since: May 23, 2017

Eternal question, who is cooler, Google or Apple.

* Some comments have been hidden, because they don't meet the discussions rules.

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