Apple's ARKit release left Google flat-footed

Posted:
in General Discussion edited May 2020
While Apple and Facebook push forward with augmented reality and virtual reality hardware, Google, burned by Google Glass and a late start to a smartphone AR framework, lags behind.

Image Credit: Mikepanhu
Google Glass Enterprise | Image Credit: Mikepanhu


Augmented reality -- or AR for short -- is likely going to be the next big thing. Apple has plans to release both an AR headset and AR Glasses in the next few years. Facebook, the owners of the Oculus-brand of virtual reality products, announced plans to build AR glasses at the 2019 Oculus Connect developer conference.

Yet, as demonstrated in a report published on Friday by The Information, Google appears to be shying away from AR -- at least as far as hardware goes.

Augmented reality rollout in smartphones

Existing consumer products -- such as most smartphones and tablets -- have some basic AR capabilities. For example, customers are able to preview home goods items in their houses from their smartphones. This seemingly simple task leads to significantly more satisfied customers, who use the feature to test out furniture in their homes.

Many games like Harry Potter: Wizards Unite and Pokemon Go incorporate AR elements into their gameplay. Snapchat, Instagram, and Facebook have all featured AR-based photo filters and games for several years.

Naturally, the next jump would be to create a piece of hardware that could take what the tech industry has learned about AR and bring these concepts into the real world. AR glasses could be used for pedestrian navigation, AR gaming, or providing information without needing to reach for a phone or computer. Professionals, such as doctors, could have access to a patient's medical records at a glance. Schools could utilize AR glasses to help visualize abstract concepts as interactive games.

Apple's ARKit beat ARCore to the punch

That wasn't always the case, though. In 2017, Google's virtual and augmented reality department had every plan to continue to compete against Apple, who was then rumored of gearing up to launch a toolkit for augmented reality apps. However, shortly after Apple announced ARKit, the department ostensibly went silent.

While they did release ARCore in February 2018 -- eight months after the release of ARKit -- the team fell apart shortly afterward. Projects, such as Google's smartphone-based VR headset, the "Daydream View," were canceled.

It's easy to assume that some of the trepidation may be directly related to the less-than-stellar response to Google Glass. Google's smart glasses launched as a prototype in 2013, had a public release in 2014 and was discontinued in 2015. While Google Glass is still available, it's been rebranded as a tool that is sold exclusively to businesses.

It may be that Google is waiting for its competitors to push products to the market, rather than taking another Glass-like risk.

Google isn't shying away completely from AR, though. Google Maps has added AR navigation for pedestrians and plans to do the same for drivers.

ARCore itself has seen recent updates, adding in occlusion the same way that Apple's ARKit 3 has.

Yet, the company does not seem to be working on any AR hardware at the moment, beyond a refocus of Google Glass for business. Despite no significant rumors of a Google-branded AR headset or AR Glasses, Google's head of AR and VR, Clay Bavor, seems to suggest otherwise.

"On the hardware and devices side, again, I characterize the phase we're in as deep R&D, focused on building the critical Lego bricks behind closed doors," Bavor said in a 2019 interview with CNET. "If you can dream it, we probably have a prototype of it somewhere in one of our labs."
watto_cobra

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 13
    I was wondering if their investment in Magic Leap was their play in this space.  That comment sounds more like they don't know what they're doing and still trying to figure out a strategy.  I'm not sure that fully closed door development is a good idea for AR and that may burn Google eventually.  Even Apple who is known for doing major work behind closed doors seems to be trying to get early developer exposure to AR tech to make the transition seamless.  FaceBook/Oculus is getting to the point where they have a real ecosystem to build on.
    edited February 2020
  • Reply 2 of 13
    esummers said:
    I was wondering if their investment in Magic Leap was their play in this space.  That comment sounds more like they don't know what they're doing and still trying to figure out a strategy.  I'm not sure that fully closed door development is a good idea for AR and that may burn Google eventually.  Even Apple who is known for doing major work behind closed doors seems to be trying to get early developer exposure to AR tech to make the transition seamless.  FaceBook/Oculus is getting to the point where they have a real ecosystem to build on.
    Facebook/Oculus is VR, not AR.
    StrangeDayslolliverwatto_cobra
  • Reply 3 of 13
    I find this article woefully lacking by leaving out Tango. While it seriously drove up the cost of the phone, it was a significant achievement by Google. It was also accurate and more powerful than ARKit. 

    Apple took the idea of Tango and did the following:

    1) reversed it so if could map the face. 
    2) decreased the range but significantly increased density and precision. 
    3) miniaturized the heck out of it. 
    4) made it fast. 
    5) made it mass produced. 

    Then called it FaceID. They used software and sensors for ARKit. It’s good enough for many applications but can still get better IMO. 
    williamlondonwatto_cobra
  • Reply 4 of 13
    Thanks for pointing out Tango. But from what I just read about it, it was an example of a skunkworks project that was moving in the wrong direction. I base this conclusion on noting that it was abandoned after less than two years and a successive project that took on board a lot of its technology was also abandoned after less than two years.

    I also don't think Apple "took the idea of Tango" for FaceID - I suspect that if anything they saw what happened with Kinect and figured out a way to put that in a phone.

    (edited for spacing)
    edited February 2020 radarthekatlolliverwatto_cobra
  • Reply 5 of 13
    steven n. said:
    I find this article woefully lacking by leaving out Tango. While it seriously drove up the cost of the phone, it was a significant achievement by Google. It was also accurate and more powerful than ARKit. 

    Apple took the idea of Tango and did the following:

    1) reversed it so if could map the face. 
    2) decreased the range but significantly increased density and precision. 
    3) miniaturized the heck out of it. 
    4) made it fast. 
    5) made it mass produced. 

    Then called it FaceID. They used software and sensors for ARKit. It’s good enough for many applications but can still get better IMO. 
    Oh, yeah, that’s totally the same thing. Just reverse it, make it precise, miniaturize it, make it fast, and do it all that so it’s commercially viable. 
    edited February 2020 fastasleepwilliamlondontmayradarthekatchabiglolliverjony0watto_cobra
  • Reply 6 of 13
    steven n. said:
    I find this article woefully lacking by leaving out Tango. While it seriously drove up the cost of the phone, it was a significant achievement by Google. It was also accurate and more powerful than ARKit. 

    Apple took the idea of Tango and did the following:

    1) reversed it so if could map the face. 
    2) decreased the range but significantly increased density and precision. 
    3) miniaturized the heck out of it. 
    4) made it fast. 
    5) made it mass produced. 

    Then called it FaceID. They used software and sensors for ARKit. It’s good enough for many applications but can still get better IMO. 
    I also don't think Apple "took the idea of Tango" for FaceID - I suspect that if anything they saw what happened with Kinect and figured out a way to put that in a phone.

    What? Face ID came from Apple purchasing PrimeSense, who had previously developed Microsoft Kinect. This isn't a mystery:

    https://www.theverge.com/circuitbreaker/2017/9/17/16315510/iphone-x-notch-kinect-apple-primesense-microsoft
    edited February 2020 williamlondontmayradarthekatIreneWlolliverwatto_cobra
  • Reply 7 of 13
    steven n. said:
    I find this article woefully lacking by leaving out Tango. While it seriously drove up the cost of the phone, it was a significant achievement by Google. It was also accurate and more powerful than ARKit. 

    Apple took the idea of Tango and did the following:

    1) reversed it so if could map the face. 
    2) decreased the range but significantly increased density and precision. 
    3) miniaturized the heck out of it. 
    4) made it fast. 
    5) made it mass produced. 

    Then called it FaceID. They used software and sensors for ARKit. It’s good enough for many applications but can still get better IMO. 


    We wrote about Tango back in 2017: https://appleinsider.com/articles/17/10/13/how-apples-iphone-x-truedepth-ar-waltzed-ahead-of-googles-tango

    The Information is now writing about Google's revamped ARCore efforts following Apple's ARKit shipped. Google did what it usually does when Apple comes out with the correct approach to something that it had been fuddling about with for years: throws out its past failure and starts over with an exact copy of what Apple just shipped (Android, Google Pay, Android TV, Android Auto, Wear OS, etc).

    This copy is hailed as genius and original and never does anything really amazing but actually just barely allows firms in China to use a Google-cloned version of Apple tech. It's been the core of China's competitive strategy for the last two decades now.

    Americans wail about Apple delegating its least valuable jobs involved with assembly labor to China--while building real jobs in design, development, apps, and content at home and elsewhere--but Google has been working overtime to shift the highest value layers of American development directly to the PRC, forcing Apple to compete with a Google-facilitated clone of its own efforts, also assembled in China.

    By also devaluing journalism with its ad-click centric content drive that has defunded newspapers and replaced them with clickbait factories, Google has set up the final end stages of capitalism where greed facilitates a dictatorship with a choice between nationalist fascism and nationalist communism, our two remaining superpowers. All it took was a lack of curation and an empowerment of all voices without any editorial control. Freedom is slavery!

    The only hope is if Apple can advance ahead of China and the West can reestablish an authentic 4th estate where its illegal to lie, so we can shut down Fox and CNN and Facebook and go back to politics that are boring and routine and instead get excited about sports or fashion or whatever.
    fastasleeptmayradarthekatlolliverjony0watto_cobra
  • Reply 8 of 13
    Yet, the company does not seem to be working on any AR hardware at the moment”, followed immediately by a quote from a senior Google employee confirming that they are working on it.
    gatorguychabig
  • Reply 9 of 13
    Google Glass Enterprise 2 .. far out, what sort of punter would walk down the street with that thing bolted to their face? <<< you have been assimilated :smile: 
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 10 of 13
    steven n.steven n. Posts: 1,214member
    steven n. said:
    I find this article woefully lacking by leaving out Tango. While it seriously drove up the cost of the phone, it was a significant achievement by Google. It was also accurate and more powerful than ARKit. 

    Apple took the idea of Tango and did the following:

    1) reversed it so if could map the face. 
    2) decreased the range but significantly increased density and precision. 
    3) miniaturized the heck out of it. 
    4) made it fast. 
    5) made it mass produced. 

    Then called it FaceID. They used software and sensors for ARKit. It’s good enough for many applications but can still get better IMO. 


    We wrote about Tango back in 2017: https://appleinsider.com/articles/17/10/13/how-apples-iphone-x-truedepth-ar-waltzed-ahead-of-googles-tango

    The Information is now writing about Google's revamped ARCore efforts following Apple's ARKit shipped. Google did what it usually does when Apple comes out with the correct approach to something that it had been fuddling about with for years: throws out its past failure and starts over with an exact copy of what Apple just shipped (Android, Google Pay, Android TV, Android Auto, Wear OS, etc).

    This copy is hailed as genius and original and never does anything really amazing but actually just barely allows firms in China to use a Google-cloned version of Apple tech. It's been the core of China's competitive strategy for the last two decades now.

    Americans wail about Apple delegating its least valuable jobs involved with assembly labor to China--while building real jobs in design, development, apps, and content at home and elsewhere--but Google has been working overtime to shift the highest value layers of American development directly to the PRC, forcing Apple to compete with a Google-facilitated clone of its own efforts, also assembled in China.

    By also devaluing journalism with its ad-click centric content drive that has defunded newspapers and replaced them with clickbait factories, Google has set up the final end stages of capitalism where greed facilitates a dictatorship with a choice between nationalist fascism and nationalist communism, our two remaining superpowers. All it took was a lack of curation and an empowerment of all voices without any editorial control. Freedom is slavery!

    The only hope is if Apple can advance ahead of China and the West can reestablish an authentic 4th estate where its illegal to lie, so we can shut down Fox and CNN and Facebook and go back to politics that are boring and routine and instead get excited about sports or fashion or whatever.
    Tango, however, predates both ARKit and ARCore. ARCore draws heavily from Tango math wise but is more limited. To not mention Tango in this article makes read like a fan boy piece. Google was actually ahead of Apple but, as is often the case with Google, their implementation was lacking from a mass market standpoint. IOW: Tango was half baked.

    And yes, FaceID shares lots in common technically with Tango. Again, Apple recognizes the best application of the tech and got the implementation right.
  • Reply 11 of 13
    esummers said:
    I was wondering if their investment in Magic Leap was their play in this space.  That comment sounds more like they don't know what they're doing and still trying to figure out a strategy.  I'm not sure that fully closed door development is a good idea for AR and that may burn Google eventually.  Even Apple who is known for doing major work behind closed doors seems to be trying to get early developer exposure to AR tech to make the transition seamless.  FaceBook/Oculus is getting to the point where they have a real ecosystem to build on.
    Facebook/Oculus is VR, not AR.
    This is true.  However, the latest versions of the Oculus incorporate some features that have utility in the AR space.  In fact, when the Quest and Rift S were introduced, there was some griping amongst developers that they API used by the setup routine (which shows a realtime view of the room one is in) wasn't available for them to use. :)

    Of course, AR is not Oculus' main focus right now, so I'm guess that whatever is there isn't at the point where it would be hugely useful.
  • Reply 12 of 13
    esummers said:
    I was wondering if their investment in Magic Leap was their play in this space.  That comment sounds more like they don't know what they're doing and still trying to figure out a strategy.  I'm not sure that fully closed door development is a good idea for AR and that may burn Google eventually.  Even Apple who is known for doing major work behind closed doors seems to be trying to get early developer exposure to AR tech to make the transition seamless.  FaceBook/Oculus is getting to the point where they have a real ecosystem to build on.
    Facebook/Oculus is VR, not AR.
    This is true.  However, the latest versions of the Oculus incorporate some features that have utility in the AR space.  In fact, when the Quest and Rift S were introduced, there was some griping amongst developers that they API used by the setup routine (which shows a realtime view of the room one is in) wasn't available for them to use. :)

    Of course, AR is not Oculus' main focus right now, so I'm guess that whatever is there isn't at the point where it would be hugely useful.
    Are you talking about Passthrough mode? Are there any actual shipping AR features beyond this setup mode you mentioned?
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 13 of 13
    esummers said:
    I was wondering if their investment in Magic Leap was their play in this space.  That comment sounds more like they don't know what they're doing and still trying to figure out a strategy.  I'm not sure that fully closed door development is a good idea for AR and that may burn Google eventually.  Even Apple who is known for doing major work behind closed doors seems to be trying to get early developer exposure to AR tech to make the transition seamless.  FaceBook/Oculus is getting to the point where they have a real ecosystem to build on.
    Facebook/Oculus is VR, not AR.
    This is true.  However, the latest versions of the Oculus incorporate some features that have utility in the AR space.  In fact, when the Quest and Rift S were introduced, there was some griping amongst developers that they API used by the setup routine (which shows a realtime view of the room one is in) wasn't available for them to use. :)

    Of course, AR is not Oculus' main focus right now, so I'm guess that whatever is there isn't at the point where it would be hugely useful.
    Are you talking about Passthrough mode? Are there any actual shipping AR features beyond this setup mode you mentioned?
    Not that I know of.  That's what the griping I heard was about. :)
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