Augmented reality tools are about to become more widely accessible to consumers with Android smartphones.
Google in 2014 rolled out augmented reality technology for Android smartphones, called Tango. However, Tango’s augmented reality was only available in a few consumer-facing smartphones, such as the ASUS ZenFone AR, the Lenovo Phab 2 Pro and the recently released Google Pixel 2.
Now that’s about to change as Google recently announced that it is closing the Tango project and putting the lessons learned from it into its newly-launched ARCore software development kit (SDK). The ARCore SDK gives developers the tools to create augmented reality features in Android apps, making AR more accessible for Android smartphone consumers. ARCore will make augmented reality available without additional hardware, and as of June 2017, more than 45% of U.S. smartphone consumers own a device running the Android operation system, according to digital measurement firm comScore Inc.
“Tango devices were specialized and few of them were available,” says Jeffrey Hammond, vice president, principal analysts at Forrester Research Inc. “ARCore availability will be in mainline Android devices using less-specialized hardware. This mean broader reach for their development efforts.”
While this means more devices can support augmented reality, it does not mean that consumer adoption of augmented reality will immediately accelerate, Hammond says.
“We’ll see gradual adoption, but it will remain low in 2018,” says Hammond, who adds that the next push will be to promote and drive consumer awareness of what augmented reality is. Such promotions include commercials for the Google Pixel 2 smartphone and Apple Inc.’s iPhone X, both of which support AR.
“Awareness in 2018, followed by more prototyping and experimentation, with more adoption into 2019 and beyond” is what Hammond says to expect.
Some online retailers, such as Lowe’s Cos. Inc., No. 25 in the Internet Retailer 2017 Top 500, and Wayfair Inc. (No. 16), began developing augmented reality products with Tango, to test and learn how consumers used the feature, and make tweaks to those products before consumer adoption picked up.
“We wouldn’t have the beautiful experience we have today if we hadn’t run experiments,” Steve Conine, co-founder and co-chairman of Wayfair, says.
These retailers will have to migrate their Tango software on the ARCore SDK, but that process is reportedly not difficult, Hammond says.
In June 2017, Apple Inc. (No. 2 in the Top 500) deployed its augmented reality software development kit, called ARKit, which contains the tools for developers to build augmented reality features in iOS apps. Apple had 44.9% of device market share as of June 2017. Those ARKit features are compatible for consumers with an iPhone 6s or later model running the iOS11 operating system, which Apple launched in November. As of December, 59% of Apple devices were running iOS 11, according to Apple.
Find out more about augmented reality in the January issue of Internet Retailer magazine.