Google this week released a preview of ARCore, an augmented reality (AR) platform that will give Android smartphones greater AR features, TechCrunch reported. The test version comes as Apple is poised to release its ARKit with the introduction of its next iPhone and iOS 11 in mid-September. Google's ARCore is more nimble than the company's experimental Tango, a high-end technology that didn't gain significant traction with smartphone makers and developers.
ARCore will launch on the Pixel and Galaxy S8 smartphones, but Google wants to have 100 million Android devices supported by the technology when it's rolled out publicly later this year, TechCrunch said in a separate report.
Not to be outdone, Apple this week gathered app developers at its headquarters in Cupertino, CA, to demonstrate their early tests with ARKit, per The Verge. Ikea, The Food Network, AMC TV and Giphy were among the big names in attendance to discuss their app development processes. Some developers said making an AR app was easy and only required six to eight weeks. Almost all the developers cited Apple's giant audience — hundreds of millions of people use its devices — as the biggest incentive for creating AR apps.
AR platform wars heating up between the big tech players — namely Google and Apple, but also Facebook — suggests that the technology, after years of hype, is finally about to hit the mainstream. Google and Apple have the benefit of being able to integrate their AR software into millions of mobile phones, which ensures a good deal of curious users are likely to try out new offerings and apps that leverage the technology.
AR has had its fair share of marketing use cases over the years, such as demonstrating cosmetics on user selfies, showing how new furniture will look in a living room or sponsoring branded filters on social media apps like Snapchat. And, of course, last summer's Pokemon Go mobile gaming phenomenon showed how AR could help marketers better connect on- and offline channels. Following that model, other big-name brands have experimented with gamified AR marketing strategies, including Disney, which is launching an AR treasure hunt to promote its new line of "Star Wars" products at big-box retailers in September.
But AR promises to do so much more, like giving people more advanced navigation capabilities to guide them while walking or driving, viewing virtual ads inside a store or providing more detailed product information while shopping. Google revamping its AR development tools to be more intuitive should help marketers craft engaging, immersive experiences that are available at mass scale.
These capabilities and much more will come as software developers put their creative energies into apps that will work on billions of Android and iOS devices. Consumer spending on virtual reality and AR worldwide is expected to double each year for the next four years, according to a recent report from the IDC, and marketers will likely ramp up their investments to accommodate that growing interest. Total consumer spending will increase from $11.4 billion in 2017 to $215 billion in 2021, with a compound annual growth rate of 113%, the researcher said.