At the end of this week, we saw how Google announced the end of Project Tango, an initiative that had been in operation for years and wanted to serve to boost the augmented reality in Android and help offer better tools capable of understanding the physical space and then create virtual replicas.
A news that a priori could be understood as a failure on the part of Mountain View but a more relaxed reading makes us see that more than a death is a relay in the way of understanding augmented reality and its applications on mobile devices.
Google has been experimenting with augmented reality in multiple ways and with the announcement of ARCore this summer they hinted that the roadmap had changed direction: this technology was no longer extremely dependent on hardware to go for a more thoughtful approach to software to reach a wider audience, something similar to what they have achieved with virtual reality and Google Cardboard for example.
Project Tango did a lot and now is the time for ARcore to follow the path, in another direction.
On March 1, 2018, we will bid farewell to Project Tango
Project Tango debuted three years ago and the approach that we have had most of that technology has been the launch of two terminals such as the Lenovo Phab2 Pro and the ASUS AR. Two Android with the little commercial journey that has gone largely unnoticed and that pay the duck of the changes that are taking place in Google.
They will continue working but today their interest beyond very specific uses for developers of augmented reality is to include the list of curious and unique terminals within the large ecosystem that is in Android.
From the beginning, Google made it clear that Project Tango was going to be more of a professional tool aimed at developers of augmented reality content. The hardware was very specific as well as the use of the cameras, useful for this context but far from what consumers were asking for.
This summer the Mountain View announced ARcore as a project to bring tools aimed at creating applications of this type and with the possibility that they were used in all types of terminals.
The announcement was a declaration of intent: we believe in augmented reality for the general public and there is no longer the need to have a specific device.
The camera of any terminal of 2017 has sufficient quality and although the experience can vary between an entry range of 100 and a few euros and a flagship that rubs the thousand, the minimum standard should be enough to offer an attractive experience. Along with this great message, there was another more subtle one: Project Tango had its days numbered.
An augmented reality that is more oriented and dependent on software means attracting app developers so they can bring their content to all kinds of users, no matter how good or bad the camera is.
So it has happened, Google has announced this week that from March 1 the official hardware support oriented augmented reality will end. Hard news for the few, owners of a Lenovo Phab 2 Pro or an ASUS AR but a natural step. The relay will be slow and in the little more than three months that have passed since this announcement we have seen that the deployment will be somewhat slow but the future very promising.
Recently, we were able to test the Google AR stickers with ARcore with very good results: its use is addictive and the only important downside is the high battery consumption it makes. At the moment it is only available in the Google Pixel but it is a matter of time when the terminals arrive with Android 8.1 Oreo as standard or through OTA update when we see a bigger deployment.
Now that the technology of augmented reality has matured enough, we begin to see how the games begin to gain prominence, with the phenomenon of Pokémon Go as a clear example of what is possible to do and how much people can be overturned with this type of games.
That they arrive more is a question of time and as soon as ARcore arrives at the most humble terminals, it will be seen that Project Tango has done its job and its death has not been in vain.
The software route as a way to compete with Apple
Project Tango had a discreet presence beyond the circle of technology enthusiasts and few public demonstrations of its potential. However, when Apple announced ARKit we saw that the developers went a lot with this technology and we saw. Some of them were quite interesting and showed that this is useful for more than just making games. Those of Cupertino stole the thunder of innovation in augmented reality.
While Google continued with its hardware-oriented proposal, they saw that in order to compete with Apple they needed to change the address. In Cupertino they have control of the entire chain (hardware, operating system, and software) and that gives them a series of facilities in this case.
To do well in Android the solution had to be in the software, the same decision they made to convert the mobile operating system into the most used platform.
Continuing with the parallels with Android as an operating system, it remains to be seen whether Google will be able to scale it and take it to all types of terminals with sufficient quality guarantees so that developers are encouraged to create content.
There are many examples already on Google Play, yes, but what ARcore promises is to go one step further to finish opening the shell and that the creators see it more interesting because of the capabilities it offers as a long-term strategy and not because of chasing shadows. like Pokémon Go to succeed, or try, in the short term.