Google's AR push looks to put the pressure on rival Apple, with the iPhone maker recently announcing its own software dev kit, ARKit, on iOS 11. Google's Pixel, Pixel XL, and Samsung's Galaxy S8 are fit to run ARCore apps, and next-gen devices should too upon launch of the SDK next year, presumably.
To help developers, Google is releasing prototype browsers for experimenting with AR. Tango requires special hardware, whereas ARcore works with the components found on most modern smartphones. Environmental understanding uses the motion tracking technology to sense horizontal surfaces, and light estimation registers ambient light.
Google has officially announced the new SDK for developers to enable better AR games and applications to be developed in the coming months. The company already has its hands full with two VR platforms, Cardboard and Daydream, and it dumped significant resources into realizing the Tango AR platform.
You might recall Project Tango which Google began in 2014.
Android is easily the largest mobile platform in the world far surpassing Windows Mobile with its scant 0.1% market share globally.
You can check out the company's "AR Experiments" site to see pictures and videos of projects made using ARCore.
As with both Tango and Daydream, however, device compatibility will be limited compared to the existing base of Android users (more than 1 billion). Google had been investing in its Tango augmented reality platform, but that required special hardware and sensors on new smartphones. Unlike Google's Tango offering, however, ARKit is not capable of mapping a three-dimensional space like Tango, resulting in the platform's inability to take precise measurements into account when running augmented reality apps.
The company's target for the end of the preview is compatibility with 100 million devices, and Google is working with companies including Samsung, Huawei, LG and Asus to make that happen. Developers will be able to play around with motion tracking, since ARCore can determine the position and orientation of the phone to accurately place objects.
It will only be a matter of time before consumers and developers see whether it is Apple or Google who comes out ahead in the augmented reality smartphone race.