philip lelyveld The world of entertainment technology


Apple’s billion devices give augmented reality edge over Google

920x920Apple last month lifted the lid on ARKit, the company’s first foray into this field. The tool lets developers build applications for iPhones and iPads.

Google revealed Tango, its AR software system, back in 2014, with the latest iteration showed off this January. Unlike ARKit, it requires infrared depth perception sensors, and there are currently only two mobile phones available with the technology: Lenovo Group’s Phab 2 Pro and Asustek Computer’s ZenFone AR. Apple’s ARKit uses the iPhone’s existing hardware, such as the camera and gyroscope, to achieve similar ends.

The crux of the problem for Google is fragmentation. When it updates its Android mobile operating system, hardware makers and cellular network operators are often slow to send the new software to phones. That means the latest features, like Tango, reach only a fraction of Android’s more than 2 billion monthly active devices. Eighty-six percent of Apple’s mobile devices run the latest iOS software, compared with 11.5 percent of Android devices that run the newest Android OS.

“The reason Android can’t compete with ARKit is that the original equipment manufacturers would need to effectively standardize their camera” systems, Miesnieks said.

For Apple, ARKit is the foundation for a later, but larger push into AR-infused devices. The company has a team of engineers working on smart glasses, and the next iPhone will likely include front- and rear-facing 3-D sensors when it’s released this year, analysts at JPMorgan Chase & Co. and others have predicted.

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