ARCore v ARKit: Google and Apple’s battle over the AR world has begun

30 Aug 2017

3D render on a phone. Image: Inked Pixels/Shutterstock

In the space of a few days, Google and Apple have shown off their respective AR technologies for mobile phones as the new market goes from a cold war, to a hot one.

Augmented reality (AR) as an endeavour is set to explode onto the scene following initial successes, most notably the release of Pokémon Go last year, which led people to some extreme places to catch a digital creature.

What is set to bring it to the next level, however, is the introduction of two AR platforms from two of the biggest companies on Earth: Apple and Google, with ARKit and ARCore, respectively.

Announced earlier this summer at its developer conference, ARKit has caused a stir as companies clamour to get on board, to tie in their products and services ahead of its launch with iOS 11 next month.

Already, many of these companies have started to test their products, including Ikea, which recently demoed its new app, Ikea Place, to The Verge. The app will enable users to place AR furniture in their living room and see what it looks like.

The Tango is out

However, around the same time, Google’s vice-president of Android engineering, David Burke, unveiled ARCore and its first software developer kit for creators to try out.

What Google hopes will give it the edge over Apple’s platform is that it has been built with the explicit purpose of working on most Android devices, not just ones with specific hardware.

For the past three years, Google has been developing AR tools using the Project Tango processor developed by Irish-born technology firm Movidius, now a part of Intel.

This need to move away from technology limited by hardware could mean that Google will have the greatest number of potential users when officially launched, with more than 2bn active users of the operating system at the last count.

Google said that starting now, ARCore is available on its own Pixel phone and Samsung’s S8, running on 7.0 Nougat and above.

Eventually, the company will target 100m devices at the end of the preview, saying: “ARCore is our next step in bringing AR to everyone, and we’ll have more to share later this year.”

By the time this preview ends, Apple will have already jumped ahead in the race, with iOS 11 expected to drop in the weeks that follow its upcoming hardware conference on 12 September.

It stands to be an interesting few months for small developers and Silicon Valley alike.

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic