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article imageGoogle to replace Project Tango augmented reality with ARCore

By James Walker     Dec 18, 2017 in Technology
Google's announced the second preview of ARCore, its new Android SDK for mobile AR apps. The company's also revealed it's to shutter its earlier Project Tango initiative. Tango was one of the first mobile AR systems but only two devices are compatible.
Project Tango launched in 2014 as an ambitious research project to give smartphones advanced vision capabilities. Tango relies on mobile devices having a set of specialised custom hardware, including complex motion tracking capabilities and an IR depth sensor.
After progressing through several prototypes, the first consumer-ready Tango device launched last year. The Lenovo Phab 2 Pro demonstrated the direction in which Google was taking mobile AR. It was followed by the Asus ZenFone AR back in January. Since then, there have been no more Tango devices and few updates on the project itself.
In a blog post late last week, Google said it's decided to "take everything we learned" from Tango and invest it into ARCore. ARCore was announced in the summer as a new Android SDK for augmented reality. It rivals Apple's ARKit and gives Android developers a way to create AR experiences that can run across any compatible device.
Technically, ARCore is a less advanced system than Tango. However, it needs no specialist hardware to run and will be compatible with virtually all upcoming smartphones. With manufacturer uptake of Tango very low, shifting the primary development focus to ARCore makes more sense in the long-term. Developers now have a single ecosystem to target when creating AR apps for the Android platform.
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"We've been working on augmented reality since 2014, with our earliest investments in Project Tango," said Google. "We've taken everything we learned from that to build ARCore, which launched in preview earlier this year. Whereas Tango required special hardware, ARCore is a fast, performant, Android-scale SDK that enables high-quality augmented reality across millions of qualified mobile devices."
ARCore's already being used in a few consumer apps. Google's now released a new developer preview version of the SDK that comes with several additional features. These include the ability to pause and resume AR sessions like a regular mobile app. Google's also added more programming language options for developers, launching a C API to join the existing Java, Unity and Unreal SDKs.
Google said it's preparing to launch the final release version of ARCore v1.0 in the coming months. From day one, developers will be able to reach over 100 million smartphone owners with their first ARCore apps. The number of targetable users should steadily increase as more people upgrade their device. Google will offer augmented reality experiences directly through the Play Store.
More about Google, arcore, project tango, augmented reality, Smartphones