Apple unveiled its augmented reality platform, ARKit, at its WWDC developers’ conference in June. The platform allows developers to create apps that can take advantage of the built-in camera, processors and motion sensors of iPhones and iPad to create advanced AR experiences. While the Cupertino-based tech giant is taking its very first steps into the world of virtual reality with ARKit, Google has been at it for years, as is already evident from its various trysts with VR and AR, including Cardboard, Daydream and of course, Project Tango. However, the search giant has now gone ahead and unveiled a whole new AR platform of its own, called ARCore, which will allow developers to write AR apps that will integrate digital experiences into the physical world via Android smartphones and tablets. So, now that both Google and Apple have their own publicly-announced AR platforms, let’s pit ARCore vs ARKit and look at some of the key similarities and differences between the two.
What is Google’s ARCore?
ARCore is Google’s all-new SDK that aims to bring augmented reality capabilities to all smartphones running Android 7.0 Nougat and above. Much like Project Tango, the technology will work by detecting physical objects near the user to display augmented reality content. For this, ARCore will make use of the sensors in your smartphone to detect these horizontal planes, factor in the device’s motion tracking and, estimate the light entering a room so objects can be dynamically lit based on their environment.
Google is also bringing its AR experiments to the web, describing it as “a critical component of the future of AR.” As a first step, it’s releasing a prototype web-browser that will allow web developers to start working with AR, much like their mobile counterparts. While the entire process is still in an experimental stage, Google believes that these custom browsers will allow developers to eventually build AR-enhanced websites that are platform neutral and, work on both Android and ARCore, as well as iOS and ARKit.
What is Apple’s ARKit?
Much like Google’s ARCore, ARKit is Apple’s very own foray into the world of augmented reality and was announced at the WWDC developer conference earlier this year. It is expected to come to all iPhones and iPads running on iOS 11 and above, and has been described by industry insiders like former Samsung executive Matthew Miesnieks, as “the biggest thing that’s happened to the AR industry since it began”.
According to post on Apple’s official website, its first augmented reality software development kit offers developers the chance to “easily create unparalleled augmented reality experiences for iPhone and iPad by blending digital objects and information with the environment around users”.
ARCore vs ARKit: Hardware and Software Requirements
ARCore was only announced a few hours earlier, but from the looks of it, it will work pretty much the same way as ARKit for the most part. Like ARKit, ARCore will also work with Java/OpenGL, Unity and Unreal and features motion tracking, environmental understanding and light estimation. Another Area of Similarity between the two platforms is that unlike Tango, both will work on many of the existing smartphones, and will not require any advanced hardware, like specialized sensors or cameras, to work properly.
In terms of software, though, there are some entry barriers if you’re looking to get access to either of the latest AR platforms on your devices. While ARKit will only be compatible with iPhones and iPads running iOS 11 and above, ARCore will be available for devices running on Android 7.0 Nougat and above. So as long as your smartphone runs on the latest software, you should be able to download the latest AR apps from the Play Store and the App Store.
What does ARCore Mean For Project Tango?
While specific details about Google’s ARCore is still hard to come by, it will be interesting to see whether the search giant is looking to kill off Project Tango with its latest announcement, of if it will still have some place in the Google’s grand AR vision going forward. By the looks of it though, this might well be the end of the road for Tango, with Google’s head of augmented reality and virtual reality, Clay Bavor, saying that Tango will “fade into the background” in the future, as more of an “enabling technology that kind of works behind the scenes”.
ARCore vs ARKit: SDK Availability and Compatible Devices
The SDK for ARKit is available for download for all iOS developers with an Apple Developer Account, and works on devices running iOS 11 beta. It will eventually support all devices running iOS 11 and above.
As for ARCore, Google has already released a preview SDK to Android developers, but only for Google’s Pixel twins and Samsung’s Galaxy S8 running either Android Nougat or Android Oreo. The SDK, however, will eventually support all devices running Android 7.0 Nougat and above.
ARCore vs ARKit: When To Expect AR Apps Based on These Platforms?
Google says it will support 100 million devices by the end of this year, but as we know all too well, which devices will get Nougat and which devices won’t will depend entirely on the OEMs and carriers, so as long as you device is in line to receive either of the newer versions of Android, you should be able to use the AR apps that are expected to start showing up on the Play Store going forward. It will be interesting to see if the Nougat/Oreo update actually rolls out before the end of the year, or if we’ll have to wait until 2018 to get the update on our devices.
As for AR apps based on these SDKs, both Google and Apple have demoed several AR applications on their respective platforms, but when we start getting these apps on our smartphones is anybody’s guess. However, if speculations on various forums are anything to go by, we should start seeing the first set of apps based on these platforms by the end of this year if everything goes according to plan.
ARCore vs ARKit: The Future of Augmented Reality
Virtual and augmented reality have often been described by tech enthusiasts and industry insiders as the next big thing in tech, although, they have failed to live up to the massive hype surrounding them thus far. Well, here’s hoping Google’s ARCore and Apple’s ARKit bring a much required traction for the augmented reality.
So, that was all from my side when it comes to ARCore vs ARKit but I’d love to know what you think. Sound off your thoughts on ARCore, ARKit and augmented reality in general, in the comments section below.