Google and Apple trade blows in augmented reality war

The race to see who will conquer the augmented reality market is heating up, with Google on Tuesday announcing its own developer tools to create AR apps for Android.

ARCore is a more consumer-friendly version of Google’s Tango AR platform. Tango launched last November which, while being a beefy bit of software, required custom hardware that not many phones really picked up. ARCore is admittedly less powerful than Tango, but is much more accessible and is already set to launch on Google Pixel and Samsung Galaxy S8 phones. Google has said that it hopes to make ARCore accessible to at least 100 million users.

However, seemingly looking to rain on Google’s parade, Apple later on Tuesday also had its own AR-shaped news, showing off an array of apps running on its ARKit platform that was announced earlier in June. 

ARKit is an essential part of the latest iteration of iOS, and Apple has taken the opportunity to show off a whole heap of apps that are built on it. These range from an interactive story book to an IKEA app that allows users to see how the furniture they’re shopping for would fit into their home. 

AR has been around in various forms for a few years, but mostly seen as a novelty gimmick. Both Nintendo and Sony launched their 3DS and Vita handheld systems with AR cards for playing games, but these were largely tech demos. It was the release of Pokémon Go last summer that cemented the tech in the public consciousness and made people aware of what it could be. The game also proved the financial viability of AR, with analysts predicting that it will make $3 billion over two years. 

That certainly made both Apple and Google notice, and now we are in the early stages of a development war to see who will win. Apple CEO Tim Cook earlier this month described AR as "one of those huge things that we’ll look back at and marvel on the start of it", but given the amount of press around the two platforms right now it’s clear that plenty of marvelling is going on already.

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