2 groundbreaking AR announcements from this year’s Google I/O Conference

2 groundbreaking AR announcements from this year’s Google I/O Conference

If you are interested in the cutting edge of technology, the Google I/O Conference definitely needs to be on your radar. This is the place where developers from across the world congregate to showcases in-depth technical developments for building web, mobile, and enterprise applications with Google and open sources such as Android, Chrome and Chrome OS, APIs, Google Web Toolkit, App Engine, and more. But what does that mean in layman terms? Well, it gives us a glimpse of what is coming next in almost all technical spheres.

Last Friday the 2018 edition of the conference came to a close with many interesting takeaways across all technical disciplines. But let us give you the run-down of the 2 most groundbreaking announcements for Augmented Reality.

1. Google plays catch with Apple’s ARKit with a major update for ARCore.

Perhaps the biggest announcement for AR at Google I/O is ARCore’s update. To the untrained eye, this update may seem trivial… but this is far from the truth. If we look under the hood on the technical side, Google has made some very ambitious upgrades to their AR framework.

While their new vertical plane detection, Sceneform framework and Augmented images (a combination of image marker tracking and SLAM/World tracking) are all impressive additions - their new Cloud Anchors are set to dramatically change the way we experience AR on global proportions.

So what are these Cloud Anchors? A tool to remove another big obstacle from Augmented Reality. The first tools, ARKit and ARCore, made it possible to use AR with just about any recent smart device. But you were still limited to your individual version of AR. You were alone in this Augmented Reality. Cloud Anchors remove this obstacle by leveraging Google's cloud services. By sharing your AR data with others you can now invite them to your augmented environment. This has huge implications for use cases involving global AR collaborations - from training scenarios in any environment to advertising models. What's more, Google’s Cloud Anchors are set to be compatible with Apple’s ARKit. This means that we may be looking at the first global standard for AR standardization. Overall, this is big news… so make sure to watch this space!  

2. Google Maps to add Augmented Reality Directions.

We are all waiting for it, and it is almost here… Again this is very ambitious and closely connected to the new Cloud Anchors (as this technology will provide the groundwork for sourcing the AR content to guide us in Google Maps). In combination with Google’s staggering AI, this will be the first major step to combining Augmented Reality with Artificial Intelligence in Google Maps. It all works by pairing the extensive street-view data with AR to give you turn-by-turn directions when on the move. This will have a huge impact on global AR adoption as it looks to dramatically simplify the navigation market in a day-to-day use case.

How does it work? It looks like Google will combine the ARCore tracking with their huge feature databases generated from the sensor arrays on the Google Street View cars we see driving around (yes we all wave when we see them). Basically, these sensors collect much more data than the images you see in Google Street maps as they also capture a 3D impression of the whole world. This data can now be used to enable ARCore tracking - and AR street dircetions. However, there are a few hurdles to overcome first… Namely, a whole lot of new data of entire cities needs to be captured and regularly updated (or the tracking will no longer work). Also, the AR cloud infrastructure needs to be built up for each location and there still needs to be a smooth transition between GPS and SLAM tracking in ARCore.

Nonetheless, this is still a pretty amazing development that opens up some pretty interesting questions… for example, Google will undoubtedly use this technology to track our movements further - what sort of implications will this have? Also, if our cities are covered with AR Cloud Anchors (that essentially places a digital world over the real), who will own this new digital marketplace? Google? So we may be set for new digital real estate markets where Google is the landlord of the AR world. Scary or exciting?