If you're an Android user, you're very likely jealous of your iPhone friends who have access to the wide, wonderful world of augmented reality thanks to ARKit.
But while ARCore is still in developer preview and AR Stickers remain an exclusive feature of Pixel smartphones, the rest of you Android users can now get a taste of AR through the addition of AR mode to the Motion Stills app.
The latest update to the app gives users the option to place one of six 3D objects from Poly into their environment and capture them in short video clips.
Originally an app for iPhones and iPads designed to create gifs from the Live Photos feature in iOS, Motion Stills now enables members of the Android tribe to record brief videos and create their own looping animations.
According to a post on the Google Research Blog, Motion Stills employs a software magic trick similar to those deployed in ARKit and ARCore.
Using the device's accelerometer to determine the device orientation and assuming the surfaces on which objects are placed are parallel to the ground, the app is able to track objects with six degrees of freedom. To track motion in the scene, the app treats the three degrees of rotation separately from those of translation. The app uses the device's gyroscope to determine rotation while applying the app's scale estimation capability to track the object based on lateral movement.
In limited hands-on with the app, the real world results are highly accurate. The tracking gets a little tricky when the device moves away from the tracked surface, or if the surface itself moves. Then again, the app maintained some impressive stability during one moving office chair test.
Also, since the app already borrows from Poly, it seems odd to limit the selection to six models. I hate to look a gift horse in the mouth, but it seems like a deeper selection or an option to import additional models would give the AR mode a bit more replay value.
While a single AR app pales in comparison to an ecosystem that could enable thousands of AR apps, the feature demonstrates what the company can do with a bit of clever software coding and without an underlying AR framework. At the very least, it buys Google some time until ARCore is more widely distributed.
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