- Google brought its augmented reality (AR) platform ARCore out of beta testing with several new features, and the company is adding its Lens visual search tool to Google Photos on all phones, according to a company blog post. Google said 100 million Android phones currently support the platform, and it’s working with hardware makers such as Samsung, Huawei, LGE, Motorola, Asus, Xiaomi, HMD/Nokia, ZTE, Sony Mobile and Vivo to certify new ARCore phones, per the Verge.
- Sotheby’s International Realty, Columbia Pictures, furniture company Otto, e-commerce company JD.com and carmaker Porsche are among the brands that are launch partners for ARCore 1.0. The platform has support for anchoring digital objects seen through a smartphone camera to any textured surface, not just horizontal ones.
- Meanwhile, Google is rolling out its digital Assistant to more than 30 languages by the end of the year to reach 95% of eligible Android phones worldwide, per a separate company blog post. Google Assistant will also gain multilingual speech later this year to help people who speak English, French and German in different settings like the home or office.
AR is ramping up now that app developers have the software tools to create experiences with Google’s ARCore and Apple ARKit. Apple has attracted a number of brands already and Google could catch up quickly now that ARCore is out of beta, although it still isn't available as widely as ARKit. Late last year, Google discontinued its other AR platform, Tango, in part because it wasn't as easy to build on for developers.
Google demonstrates many of the marketing possibilities for the technology, especially when combined with its Lens feature that can help to identify objects seen through a smartphone camera. For example, a shopper could take a picture of a piece of furniture and use Google Lens to identify the object and call up a 3D model that can be previewed in a person’s home, per the Verge.
Only 100 million Android phones, out of the estimated 2 billion worldwide, can support the ARCore technology, but that proportion should grow significantly over the next couple of years, according to MIT Technology Review. The possibility of reaching billions of users will give software developers greater incentive to add AR features to their apps. So far, AR has mostly shown the most promise in social media apps like Snapchat, virtual make-up try-on’s, home decor simulations and games like Pokemon Go. To promote ARCore, Google worked with Snap on a World Lens that offers an AR tour of the famous Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona. Navigation apps that show people virtual billboards or provide guided tours are likely to popular applications for AR.
As for Google Assistant’s new language abilities, the company is trying to catch up with Apple, whose Siri voice assistant supports 20 languages and nine dialects of English, per the Verge. Siri also understands Cantonese and Mandarin, which Google hasn’t added yet. Google now supports English, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Spanish and Brazilian Portuguese, and will soon add Danish, Dutch, Hindi, Indonesian, Norwegian, Swedish and Thai.