Needless to say, it’s been a very exciting couple of months for Augmented reality (AR). With the announcements of AR Core (Google), and AR Kit (Apple) a couple of months ago, it appears as though AR has hit mainstream. It is important to keep in mind that both of these AR development kits are still in beta and also after beta will still be in version 1. However, the capabilities look very promising for consumer and enterprise facing solutions.
AR Core from Google is in developer preview, focusing on reaching a potential of 100 million devices through its support of the Google Pixel and Samsung 8 devices (to start). According to Google, after developer preview, AR Core will have the ability to support Android devices with Android Nougat (7.0) and Oreo (8.0) operating systems. This doesn’t mean that all devices with these operating systems are supported, as there will be a vetting process to approve devices. What this does mean is that devices currently on the market, may gain the Google AR Core seal of approval in the coming months. Android has ~2 billion active devices in the market, but due to the fragmentation and variety of devices, it will remain to be seen how many will support AR Core over time.
Taking a deeper dive into AR Core (Google), it focuses on three specific areas:
- Motion Tracking – as a user moves their mobile device, AR Core will determine the positioning and orientation (pose) of the camera relative to the physical world. Google calls this process visual inertial odometry (VIO). This is critical for rendering 3D content in the position and correct perspective making it appear as if the virtual content is part of the physical world.
- Environmental Understanding – AR Core utilizes “feature points”, or visually distinct features in the camera image, to understand the environmental. Typically, this is to find horizontal surfaces, like tables and desks, to make these surfaces available to the app as planes. Environmental understanding also determines the plane’s boundaries and makes that information available to the app.
- Light Estimation – AR Core will dynamically detect lighting information from the environment and then apply it to the virtual objects in the scene. Therefore, the virtual objects look more natural and believable in the physical world.
The use cases for enterprise and consumers using AR are almost limitless. As discussed in the “Immersive Technologies Offer Infinite Possibilities” research note, manufacturers are utilizing AR to overlay machine health and maintenance information, surgeons are using AR-equipped cameras for real-time collaboration in the operating room, and field service workers are leveraging AR for remote expert guidance. With Google’s AR Core, and Apple’s AR Kit, developers have additional tools in their toolkits to get started developing AR experiences on mobile devices.
Overtime, developers will need to track the benefits of utilizing native AR development kits (i.e. AR Core) versus cross-platform solutions (i.e. Wikitude, Gravity Jack) as part of a longer term AR development strategy. This will be a very similar conversation as to the cross-platform versus native discussion as part of an organization’s larger mobile app strategy.
Ultimately, the announcement of AR Core, and AR Kit previously, is a critical point in the advancement and availability of AR development tools and solutions. These kits are the turning point that has truly made AR a viable technology consideration for businesses today.
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