Industry watchers are saying that the next big thing in the smartphone industry will likely be augmented reality. This week Google replaced its AR Tango platform with the new ARCore and Apple earlier introduced its ARKit developer tools that can be used with the iOS 11 and compatible with its upcoming iPhone 8.
These companies are betting big on the technology and these new toolkits mean it will be available on a massive scale, on all kinds of devices.
According to Apple chief executive Tim Cook, “AR is big and profound and one of those huge things that we’ll look back at and marvel on the start of it.”
However, Forbes is saying that the focus now needs to be on creating content. Instead of “demoware,” or content that is produced only to show off the technology itself, these companies should be reaching out to other companies to help provide the useful content that will help its consumer adoption.
In the meantime though, these tech titans are scrambling to showcase the content that they have now. Apple has an edge because it released its ARKit first, and because it has a wide audience of smartphone and tablet users that will have access to the technology. But ARCore is not far behind.
Take a look at this review in which the reviewer said the ARCore demo was “one of the best experiences … with phone-based AR.”
Tango has been available for three years but is only supported by two non-Google smartphones: Lenovo Phab 2 Pro and Asus Zenfone AR. ARCore will add more Android devices and be available on “north of 100 million phones very quickly,” said Clay Bavor, head of Google’s VR and AR efforts
Google is also said to be working on two experimental web browsers, one that will use ARCore and one that will run on iOS and support ARKit.
Simon Gardner is an executive at Climax Studios, which has developed AR content for all three companies, Apple’s iOS, Google’s former AR platform Tango, and Microsoft HoloLens. He says the biggest difference between developing apps and games for the three platforms is the size of the audience — and Apple’s is the widest.
Meanwhile, 8th Wall, a Palo Alto startup that popped up in August 2016 with ex-Google and Facebook engineers making up the seven-man team is building a cross-platform solution that will work on any mobile phone, even without native frameworks like Tango or ARKit. The developers say that this will increase the amount of supported devices by 650%, and that the tools are easier to use than the native frameworks. 8th Wall XR is now available to Unity developers.
For other phones, 8th Wall XR provides 3DoF tracking, fixed surfaces, camera calibration information and vision-based lighting estimation. Later this year the team plans to bring 6 DoF to all supported phones as well, using 8th Wall’s vision and machine learning algorithms.