Alphabet’s Google and Apple launch Augmented Reality on their respective platforms

Apple’s familiarity with its hardware and software is likely to give it an edge; in contrast the huge number of hardware and software Android runs on, is likely to be a major challenge for Google in delivering AR without special sensors.

With Alphabet Inc’s Google and Apple unveiling tools to create augmented reality apps for their respective mobile platforms, the era of smartphone based augmented reality (AR) has finally come of age.

Phone-based augmented reality, which superimposes digital objects onto the real world on the screen, got a huge boost with the popularity of the Pokémon Go game.

Analysts expects the game to reap in nearly $3 billion for Apple over two years with gamers buying “PokéCoins” from its app store.

For the first time, Google’s take on the technology will be available on its Pixel phone as well as on the Samsung Galaxy S8. In a blog post, the search engine giant stated that it hoped to make ARCore, its AR system, available to at least 100 million users, in the near future. It has yet to set a date for a broad release.

In June, Apple had announced its own version, called ARKit, which it plans on releasing this fall.

With both companies jockeying for market share, software developers and customers are likely to benefit from AR’s compelling features, with many industry leaders envisioning a future in which eyeglasses, car windshields and just about any surface can be overlayed with information.

Incidentally, Google and Microsoft Corp have already experimented with AR glasses.

“AR is big and profound,” said Tim Cook, Apple’s Chief Executive to investors. “And this is one of those huge things that we’ll look back at and marvel on the start of it.”

It will not be surprising if Apple’s upcoming iOS 11, its next-gen operating system which is scheduled to be rolled out this fall, will have AR built into it.

If this were to happen, it will mean that it would have to be backward compatible upto iPhone 6s devices, which sport a single camera as opposed to a dual camera setup found on iPhone 7 Plus. Apple’s peers have even incorporated depth-sensing chips in their phones.

While initially, Google had tried to implement AR with its Project Tango system which uses a special depth-sensor, but with only two phone makers supporting it, it has changed its strategy with ARCore, which works on phones without depth sensors.

However, the fragmented Android ecosystem represents significant challenges. In order to spread AR on the wide variety of Android phones, Google will have to figure out to tap the wide variety of hardwares in Android system to deliver AR.

In this respect, delivering an AR experience for Apple is a breeze since it has a familiarity with hardware and software that will deliver the AR experience, thus calibrating it will be relatively a breeze.

As per Michael Valdsgaard, a developer with IKEA, Apple’s ecosystem for AR is “rock solid”; he went on to add that it could estimate the size of virtual furniture placed in a room with 98% accuracy, despite lacking special sensors.

“This is a classic example of where Apple’s ownership of the whole widget including both hardware and software is a huge advantage over device vendors dependent on Android and the broader value chain of component vendors,” said Jan Dawson, founder and chief analyst of Jackdaw Research.

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