Google launches ARCore depth detection camera

In December, Google previewed how it could create a depth map for augmented reality with a single camera. ARCore Depth API is now publicly launching on Android with various third-party apps already taking advantage of the technology.

Behind the scenes, Google takes advantage of depth of movement algorithms to generate a depth map. Rather than requiring special sensors or multiple lenses, all it takes is a single RGB camera.

The depth map is created by taking multiple images from different angles and comparing them as you move your phone to estimate the distance to each pixel.

This allows digital objects to appear precisely behind those of the real world. Occlusion, which is important for realistic AR, ensures that objects are not just floating in space or virtually placed in a physically impossible position.

With version 1.18 of ARCore (Google Play Services for AR), the Depth API will be available on “hundreds of millions of compatible Android devices.” Google first demonstrated the capability with AR Animals in Search and has new partners aligned to showcase the technology today.

Snap created and updated several Snapchat lenses to take advantage of the depth API, including Dancing Hotdog and a new Android-exclusive global underwater lens. In the following example, we see that the hot dog disappears behind the sofa. Meanwhile, Snapchat lens creators can take advantage of an ARCore depth API template to create their own depth-based experiences.

Samsung is another great partner that will take advantage of the depth API for their Quick Measure app on Galaxy Note 10+ and S20 Ultra. Those phones already take advantage of time-of-flight (ToF) sensors, but the two technologies can be combined to further improve quality. This allows for reduced scan time and faster plane detection. Samsung will update its measurement app in the coming months.

Meanwhile, Google Creative Lab created a demo (Game Lines) that “uses depth information to show both occlusion and collisions” with dominoes. There’s also Google’s ARCore Depth Lab app that shows off other depth API uses like realistic physics, surface interactions, and environmental tour.

Other experiences with occlusion include a game called Play Five Nights in Freddy’s AR: Special Delivery, while TeamViewer Pilot is an example of more accurate 3D AR annotations for remote support.

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