New beta of Unity 2017.2 adds support for Google’s ARCore
Unity Technologies has released a new beta build of Unity 2017.2, its game engine and game development environment, adding support for ARCore, Google’s new augmented reality technology.
Early support for ARCore is also due in Unreal Engine 4.18 in mid-October, although you can already test the UE4 ARCore plugin if you’re willing to compile the engine from source.
An Android counterpart to Apple’s ARKit technology for iOS
The ARCore SDK, which is still a tech preview, enables devs to create AR experiences for Android phones.
At the minute, that just means the Google Pixel and Pixel XL and the Samsung Galaxy S8, although Google says that it is aiming to make the SDK compatible with 100 million devices by the time of its launch.
According to its blog post announcing ARCore: “We’re working with manufacturers like Samsung, Huawei, LG, ASUS and others to make this possible with a consistent bar for quality and high performance.”
For comparison, Apple’s own upcoming augmented reality, ARKit – also supported in UE4 and Unity – will be available on every device running iOS 11 when it is rolled out this fall.
Given that there are estimated to be over 700 million iPhones in use worldwide, that would make ARKit available on around 500 million phones by early 2018, assuming the rate of uptake matches that of iOS 10.
How ARCore works
Like ARKit, ARCore makes use of visual intertial odometry (VIO), using the phone’s camera feed and data from its internal sensor to reconstruct its motion relative to surrounding objects.
The latter contributes to what Google terms ‘environmental awareness’ – ARCore can detect the positions of horizontal surfaces like floors and tabletops, and pass that information to apps created using the SDK.
Through light estimation, ARCore also passes information to the app about the lighting of the phone’s surroundings, including the average intensity of a given camera image.
That enables the app to match the lighting of CG objects to that of a live camera feed behind them, and position them as if they were really situated on its surfaces.
Available in Unity 2017.2 beta 9 now; coming to Unreal Engine 4.18 next month
ARCore is currently supported in Unity 2017.2 beta 9 and above. If you’d prefer to wait for a stable release, Unity Technologies is currently aiming for an official release of Unity 2017.2 later this month.
Source code for Unreal Engine with the ARCore plugin is currently available on Epic Games’ GitHub repository, although you’ll have to wait for Unreal Engine 4.18, due in October, to get compiled binaries.