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Google Adds UI Tools to ARCore Kit for Augmented Reality Apps

Augmented reality, commonly identified as one of the major trends in mobile app development for 2019, gets a boost in the Android camp with an update of Google ARCore SDK that features new UI tools among other enhancements.

Augmented reality (AR), popularized with the Pokémon GO game craze of 2016, lets developers meld digital constructs with real-world imagery via three key technologies:

  • Motion tracking, which allows the phone to understand and track its position relative to the world
  • Environmental understanding, which allows the phone to detect the size and location of flat horizontal surfaces like the ground or a coffee table
  • Light estimation, which allows the phone to estimate the environment's current lighting conditions

After introducing ARCore 1.0 last year, Google has been steadily improving the kit, for example recently focusing on more realistic virtual objects. Earlier this month Google announced version 1.7 and detailed several improvements.

Among those are new UI tools designed to help solve common AR UX challenges, which Google said was part of its effort to improve user experiences with simplified workflows.

"We've integrated "ARCore Elements" -- a set of common AR UI components that have been validated with user testing -- into the ARCore SDK for Unity," Google said. "You can use ARCore Elements to insert AR interactive patterns in your apps without having to reinvent the wheel. ARCore Elements also makes it easier to follow Google's recommended AR UX guidelines."

Evan Hardesty Parker, software engineer, called out two AR UI components deemed to be especially useful:

  • Plane Finding -- streamlining the key steps involved in detecting a surface
  • Object Manipulation -- using intuitive gestures to rotate, elevate, move and resize virtual objects

Other improvements detailed by Parker include:

  • Creating AR selfies: ARCore's new Augmented Faces API (available on the front-facing camera) offers a high quality, 468-point 3D mesh that lets users attach fun effects to their faces.
  • Animating characters in Sceneform AR apps: Version 1.7 expands the AR creative canvas by helping developers make objects dance, jump, spin and other wise just move around with support for animations in Sceneform.
  • Improving UX with Shared Camera access: The version 1.7 update includes UX enhancements for smartphone cameras, such as the ability to switch in and out of AR mode. "Shared Camera access in the ARCore SDK for Java lets users pause an AR experience, access the camera, and jump back in. This can be particularly helpful if users want to take a picture of the action in your app."

More information is available on the aforementioned blog post and the ARCore developer Web site.

About the Author

David Ramel is the editor of Visual Studio Magazine.

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