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Google teases AR features for web and mobile

The tech giant has been working heavily on its augmented reality platform ARCore and has unveiled a bunch of new features, including depth perception and more spatially aware physics.

Augmented reality has slowly but surely been creeping onto most major social media platforms over the last few years.

Apps such as Snapchat and Instagram have begun implementing the technology to allow users the ability to manipulate their own faces, add virtual objects to rooms, and create on-the-cuff memes and viral content. Big mobile games such as Pokémon Go and Minecraft Earth have also been adopting AR in unique ways, giving gamers the opportunity to role-play in real-life environments.

Google’s been taking note of all this buzz and has been developing its own AR technology through ARCore, a company launched last year that focuses on – you guessed it – augmented reality. While things have been quiet for a while, Google has just announced several new improvements and features that could shake things up moving forward. Time to get your cams out and start manifesting fake cats into your living room for no reason.

What are the new features coming to Google’s AR?

The biggest news is that Google has worked out a way to make occlusion widespread for all developers to use in their apps. Occlusion allows AR to detect where real-world objects are, and hide virtual objects behind them accordingly. This adds a realistic sense of death and placement that was previously unavailable.

If you place a virtual table behind a real chair on your phone, for example, the AR technology will now recognise where to hide the appropriate parts of each object to create the illusion of depth. Google claims its managed to develop these new features with already existing software on most modern Android phones, so most of us will be able to give this fancy occlusion stuff a go straight away.

Other features are in the works too, though most of these won’t be available for a while. Google’s been working on creating more realistic physics and 3D mapping, which means that virtual objects will move about real space more believably and how you’d expect them too. They’re essentially less floaty, bouncing off of small, intricate details on real-world objects, rather than feeling like they’re on top of your camera image.

How could this be used in the future?

An obvious implementation of occlusion that comes to my mind is AR horror games. How slick would it be to hide from an enemy in the real world, ducking under cover in order to hide from a virtual enemy? It would add a whole fresh new dynamic to a genre that relies on stealth mechanics, environmental immersion, and keeping behind cover.

I can also see it easily added to already existing titles. Pokémon Go, for example, could have more realistic physics when throwing Poke balls, or have specific Pokémon hide behind real-world surfaces and objects. New hunting mechanics could be used – making the discovery of individual creatures far more interesting.

For now, these new developments are mostly only available to app creators, though you can try some out for yourself using Google’s ARCore app. Prepare for far more AR features to come in the future, and hopefully some fresh new games and tools we’ve never seen before.


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