- Google is showcasing more than 60 app releases that were built with ARCore, the tech giant's platform for augmented reality (AR), which overlays digital images on a real background seen through a smartphone camera. The company highlighted dozens of new apps created from the platform in a blog post on Tuesday, coinciding with this week's ShopTalk retail conference and the Game Developers Conference.
- EBay, Ikea, Lowe's, Overstock, Williams-Sonoma's Pottery Barn, Sotheby's International Realty and Wayfair are among the major brands that are incorporating AR into their apps in various ways. EBay's "Which Box" feature helps online merchants determine what size box they need to ship an item for sale, while Ikea, Lowe's, Overstock, Pottery Barn and Wayfair's apps help customers test how furniture might fit and look in their home through a smartphone camera. The Sotheby's app aims to help home buyers, sellers and real estate agents visualize a home filled with furniture and decor rather than touring an empty house.
- Many of the featured apps aim to excite gamers, including AMC's "Walking Dead Our World" that lets Android users battle virtual zombies in the real world, similar to Pokemon Go. The game, whose broader release is planned soon, shows how Google Maps and ARCore can be integrated to create an immersive location-based experience.
Google is helping to make AR apps more mainstream with this week's debut of many Android apps that now feature functionalities built with the company's ARCore platform. The technology has shown early promise in helping to promote brands in social media apps like Snapchat and to market cosmetics with virtual try-ons from major beauty suppliers like L'Oreal and Sephora. But the additional spatial imaging that comes with the latest AR platforms gives marketers a way to sculpt 3-D product demonstrations that mobile users can move around or view from all angles through a smartphone camera, giving them a better sense of product details before they make a purchase.
In some ways, Google is playing catchup with Apple, which introduced ARKit last year to help app developers add AR functionality to apps for the iPhone. But Google has a long history of experimenting with AR, including the development of its Tango platform that required device makers to include additional sensor hardware in their phones. Those extra requirements ultimately meant that few electronics firms adopted the platform. Google last year pulled the plug on Tango after introducing ARCore, which came out of beta testing last month. Like ARKit, Google's platform is more focused on using a smartphone camera to sense a user's real-world surroundings and render digital images overlaid on the screen.
The next critical step is the development of more AR-enabled apps beyond virtual makeup try-ons and virtual furniture testing. At the same time, these early use cases are contributing to growing consumer adoption of the technology. Only 100 million Android phones out of the estimated 2 billion worldwide can support the ARCore technology, but that proportion will likely grow significantly over the next couple of years as more consumers become comfortable with the tech and more phone makers integrate AR capabilities into their devices. Even though Apple's ARKit has been available since September, Apptopia data indicate that fewer than 1,000 apps used the framework as of January, per Engadget.