On Tuesday, Google released a developer preview of ARCore, a platform for developers to build augmented reality apps for Android. ARCore brings augmented reality to the world’s largest mobile operating system, starting with just the Pixel and Galaxy S8, but will expand to other existing and upcoming Android devices. The announcement comes on the heels of Apple’s ARKit, made available to developers in June. The introduction of both platforms blankets the mobile device market and will eventually make AR as ubiquitous as the devices themselves.
How does it work? Three basic components make up the technology that enables ARCore:
- Motion tracking – uses internal sensors and the phone’s camera to identify features and determine your position and orientation as you move through space
- Environmental understanding – detects the size and location of flat horizontal surfaces like tables and walls
- Light estimation – blurs the lines between the real and augmented world by helping virtual objects cast accurate shadows
What about Tango? Augmented reality is not a new area of interest for Google. Over three years ago, Google released Tango in an attempt to bring AR to smartphones and tablets. Google’s custom hardware requirements, however, left Tango with little mainstream appeal. ARCore forgoes some of Tango’s power for increased accessibility. Fortunately for consumers, as AR becomes a core capability of devices going forward, hardware will catch up in the form of more sensors and better cameras, benefitting mobile AR as a whole.
Déjà vu. In July 2008, Apple opened the App Store with a total of 500 apps. One year later, it had seen over 2 billion downloads, and by 2011, the App Store was home to over 350,000 apps with 10 billion total downloads. The Android Market (later Google Play Store) was announced 3 months after the App Store, and although it had a slower takeoff due to smaller market share, it surpassed the App Store by 2014, both in terms of number of apps available and total downloads. The Google Play Store currently offers 2.8 million apps, compared to Apple’s 2.2 million. Just as smartphone apps erupted into existence, augmented reality will soon be a core technology available to millions of users. Google expects that by ARCore’s public launch, 100 million Android devices will support AR applications, and our research suggests over 200 million iPhones will become AR-enabled with the introduction of ARKit.
AR is here to stay. The two major device platforms are now wholeheartedly embracing and investing in augmented reality. Microsoft and Facebook have also heavily invested in AR’s future, further confirming AR’s position as a pivotal technology. We have previously written about the gold rush of AR applications on the App Store, which will only be amplified by the addition of ARCore. While the race for the pole position in AR heats up, there is one clear winner – the consumer. Aside from putting useful and fun new apps in our hands, expanding the user base of the underlying technology will accelerate the adoption of the next generation of computing.
Disclaimer: We actively write about the themes in which we invest: artificial intelligence, robotics, virtual reality, and augmented reality. From time to time, we will write about companies that are in our portfolio. Content on this site including opinions on specific themes in technology, market estimates, and estimates and commentary regarding publicly traded or private companies is not intended for use in making investment decisions. We hold no obligation to update any of our projections. We express no warranties about any estimates or opinions we make.