Developer

Google brings AR development to Android phones

Android's new SDK ARCore allows developers to build AR apps and games for mobile. Here's how it works.

On Tuesday, Android released a preview of its new SDK ARCore, bringing augmented reality (AR) capabilities to current and future Android phones for developers to build on.

ARCore is built on Android's work with Tango over the past three years to build the fundamental technologies that power mobile AR, according to a post from Dave Burke, vice president of Android Engineering.

The new SDK operates without any additional hardware, and can scale across the Android ecosystem. It is currently available on the Pixel and Samsung's S8, running 7.0 Nougat and above, and Android is targeting 100 million devices at the end of the preview. The OS is working with manufacturers including Samsung, Huawei, LG, and ASUS to make this possible, Burke said.

SEE: Executive's guide to the business value of VR and AR (free ebook)

ARCore works with Java/OpenGL, Unity, and Unreal, and focuses on three things, Burke wrote:

  • 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.

"ARCore will help further drive AR adoption by empowering developers to build and ship cross-platform AR experiences," said Mark Rein, co-founder and vice president of Epic Games, in a press release.

Along with ARCore, Android has invested in apps and services to further support developers in creating AR experiences, Burke wrote in the post. For example, Blocks and Tilt Brush make it easy for developers to quickly create 3D content for use in AR apps. The OS is now working on a Visual Positioning Service (VPS), which will enable world-scale AR experiences. And as the internet will be "a critical component to the future of AR," Burke wrote, Android is also releasing prototype browsers, which allow web developers to create AR-enhanced websites and run them on both Android/ARCore and iOS/ARKit.

Android is the largest mobile platform in the world, with more than 2 billion active devices. "ARCore is our next step in bringing AR to everyone, and we'll have more to share later this year," Burke wrote.

A number of companies are exploring AR, including Apple, whose iOS 11 allows developers to use new APIs and kits to develop AR apps. It remains to be seen if the technology will catch on in the enterprise, however.

The 3 big takeaways for TechRepublic readers

1. On Tuesday, Android released a preview of its new SDK ARCore, bringing augmented reality (AR) capabilities to current and future Android phones for developers to build on.

2. The new SDK operates without any additional hardware, and can scale across the Android ecosystem.

3. Android is also releasing prototype browsers, which allow web developers to create AR-enhanced websites and run them on both Android/ARCore and iOS/ARKit.

arcorehero.jpg
Image: Android

Also see

About Alison DeNisco Rayome

Alison DeNisco Rayome is a Staff Writer for TechRepublic. She covers CXO, cybersecurity, and the convergence of tech and the workplace.

Editor's Picks

Free Newsletters, In your Inbox