After announcing at Google I/O 2019 that augmented reality content would come to Search, Google revealed how it would make that happen with the latest round of updates to ARCore.
Scene Viewer, the company's web-based AR format, enables developers to embed gITF 3D models into websites and Search results for users to view in augmented reality.
With Scene Viewer, Google matches AR Quick Look, the web-based AR platform that Apple introduced last year with ARKit 2.0. Google's web-based AR protocol initially debuted last year via ARCore and the experimental Chrome Canary browser.
Also coming to ARCore this summer is a new ambient light estimation mode called Environmental HDR that leverages the company's expertise in artificial intelligence to match 3D content to its surroundings. Environmental HDR equips developers with three lighting APIs for specifying the direction of virtual light and creating virtual highlights and reflections.
"Environmental HDR uses machine learning with a single camera frame to understand high dynamic range illumination in 360 degrees," said Anuj Gosalia, director of engineering at Google, in a blog post.
"It takes in available light data, and extends the light into a scene with accurate shadows, highlights, reflections and more. When Environmental HDR is activated, digital objects are lit just like physical objects, so the two blend seamlessly, even when light sources are moving."
Coming more immediately is Android 1.9, which enhances some existing features that will enable developers to create more realistic experiences. That update will arrive in the Play Store via an update this week, but is available for download now via the Google Developers site.
Android 1.9 also brings an update to the Augmented Images API, the image recognition protocol introduced at Google I/O 2018. The refreshed version of Augmented Images will allow developers to track 2D images as they move and track multiple image targets at the same time.
In addition to the new and updated features, Google took the opportunity to review recently introduced features such as Augmented Faces, which will expand to iOS this summer.
Since launching with ARCore 1.0, Google has undertaken a yeoman's effort to expand the universe of ARCore-compatible devices from a handful of models to more than 130 Android devices (as well as nearly 20 iPhones and iPads for the Cloud Anchors multiplayer protocol and forthcoming Augmented Faces support).
"A little over a year ago, we introduced ARCore: a platform for building augmented reality experiences," said Gosalia. "Developers have been using it to create thousands of ARCore apps that help people with everything from fixing their dishwashers, to shopping for sunglasses, to mapping the night sky. Since last I/O, we've quadrupled the number of ARCore enabled devices to an estimated 400 million."
And while Google has done well in matching the features of ARKit, Google's platform still lacks persistent content. However, the addition of Scene Viewer in bringing AR to Search arguably makes up for that shortfall.
Moreover, it sets a new battlefront in the industry. Google stands shoulder-to-shoulder with Mozilla, Facebook, and others in support of the gITF 3D file format, while Apple still insists upon using the USDZ format. While competition is healthy, it will be a shame if the lack of agreement on standards for AR stunts its growth in the mobile AR arena.