Get ready for a (virtual) veritable tidal wave of augmented reality (AR) apps coming to your Android phone.
Google announced during GDC 2018 that 60-plus ARCore apps are landing on the Google Play Store today, boosting the lineup of already available Android AR apps and games (opens in new tab).
As a refresh, ARCore is the Google platform that lets developers create augmented reality experiences for Android phones. Using a phone's camera, the app tracks your position in real-time and places digitally rendered objects onto the real world, making for even more immersive experiences.
Today's news comes a few weeks after Google launched the ARCore 1.0 SDK to developers, which simultaneously brought ARCore to over 100 million Android devices. With the SDK, developers can now publish AR-enabled apps to the Google Play Store.
So, what can you play?
ARCore 1.0 may have just released into the wild, but Google says developers are already creating inciting AR experiences. The company highlighted a few of the newest additions in a release.
Bandai Namco has created a game called My Tamagotchi Forever (opens in new tab), letting users raise the Tamagotchi from their childhood in an AR town they can place in the real world. My Tamagotchi Forever is available today in the Play Store.
AR Emoji may be all the rage with the Galaxy S9, but what about virtual fish that eat people's emotions? Yeah, bet you hadn't thought of that.
TendAR is a game that has a virtual fish named Guppy respond to your expressions and stay alive by 'eating' the emotions of other people. Google says the game taps the Google Cloud API for its computer vision and object recognition needs while also relying on ARCore. TendAR will be available in July.
Coming in Q2 2018 is The Walking Dead: Our World (opens in new tab). As you might expect, this location-based AR game is all about fending off zombies.
In addition to ARCore, The Walking Dead AR game utilizes the Google Maps API, which Google opened up to game developers last week. Similar to mega mobile hit Pokemon Go, The Walking Dead: Our World will base gameplay action on your real-life surroundings.
Two other ARCore apps we have word on are Remote AR (opens in new tab), an enterprise collaboration app available today, and ARCat, which allows users to raise a virtual cat using their smartphone and is also out now.
Not part of GDC but tied to the influx of Google AR apps are several new ARCore retail apps, such as Pottery Barn 360 Room View (opens in new tab).
As you might expect, the app lets you place digital furniture in a room to see how it looks and change fabric colors.
There's also a feature in the eBay app called 'Which Box' that lets users figure out which size box they'll need to ship a product. Not exactly fun, but certainly practical.
Ikea Place (opens in new tab), which lets you put virtual furniture around a room (but unfortunately not build it in real-life for you) as well as tell which of the furnishings you already own are like Ikea products, is also now available in the Google Play Store.
Finally, Google highlighted an app called Just A Line as part of an exploration of creative uses for augmented reality. The app is exactly what it sounds like; you have only a line with which to illustrate the world.
Google is open-sourcing this simple concept's core code so developers can use the app as a base on which to build their own ARCore creations.
Upping the AR ante
To access ARCore-enabled apps and games, you need a phone running Android 7.0 or later. Supported devices include:
- Asus Zenfone AR
- LG V30
- LG V30+
- Google Pixel 2
- Google Pixel 2 XL
- Google Pixel
- Google Pixel XL
- OnePlus 5
- Samsung Galaxy Note 8
- Samsung Galaxy S8 Plus
- Samsung Galaxy S8
- Samsung Galaxy S7
- Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge
That list is expected to grow, though, as manufacturers including Samsung, Huawei, LG, Motorola, Asus, Xiaomi, Nokia, ZTE, Sony and Vivo are set to enable ARCore functionality in their devices this year.
AR may still be in the early stages in terms of developers and manufacturers figuring out the best uses for it, but Google's announcement ups the ante in a growing AR battle with rival Apple.
Apple has its own ARKit platform for iPad and iPad, though we haven't gotten a big wave of ARKit apps and games to the same level as Google yet. iTunes does have a page (opens in new tab) that features 20 ARKit apps.
We're likely to hear more about AR as it pertains to Android during the Google IO 2018 conference in May, while Apple has its own developer conference, WWDC 2018, taking place in early June. It's here we'll learn about iOS 12, which should have some new augmented reality features to talk about.
We're on the ground at the Game Developers Conference (GDC) in San Francisco this week covering the latest in gaming, from mobile and consoles to VR headsets. Catch up on all the latest from GDC 2018 so far!