Google ARCore: Everything you need to know about the Augmented Reality platform

Google ARCore: Everything you need to know about the Augmented Reality platform

Google has dived into augmented reality several times. Augmented reality, when used properly, can potentially be life-changing technology, but no tech company has yet managed to master AR. Apple has taken the approach of using dedicated hardware, such as the LiDAR scanner included in iPads and iPhones, while other companies, like Google, are pulling everything off through software only. We’re definitely getting closer and closer to perfect AR, however, and Google is one of the companies leading the pack, with their augmented reality SDK and technology, which is dubbed ARCore.

But what’s ARCore all about? What phones are and aren’t supported? Most importantly, should you even care about ARCore at all?

arcore depth api

ARCore, also known as ‘Google Play Services for AR’, is a Google software development kit that allows developers to create augmented reality apps. It was first launched in 2018 and since then has made its way to a lot of smartphones far and wide from several manufacturers. It works on most high-end and mid-range Android devices and has been adapted into some pretty cool use cases, some of which are legitimately useful, while some could be considered more “gimmicky”.

ARCore is definitely not Google’s first venture into AR. Some people might also remember Project Tango as the first time Google dipped its feet into augmented reality technologies. ARCore and Project Tango have a lot in common, but they also don’t. Particularly, Project Tango required dedicated hardware with multiple cameras and special sensors. Back when Project Tango was a thing, having more than one rear sensor was pretty much unheard of, let alone integrating the camera technology Tango required, including features like a fisheye camera. ARCore, on the other hand, is far more interesting because it doesn’t require any special hardware. It does everything with your phone’s camera and internal sensors and doesn’t need anything more or less than that. This means that any normal smartphone can enjoy the ARCore augmented reality experience just fine. Project Tango was eventually killed and replaced by ARCore, since it was a much more scalable solution that was compatible with almost any phone.

How does ARCore work?

Of course, ARCore requires no special sensors at all, unlike Project Tango, since it’s meant to work on devices with consumer devices with conventional camera setups. This means it only relies on your camera, your phone’s motion sensors like the gyroscope and the accelerometer, and some of Google’s software tricks to do what it does. ARCore follows a series of fundamental concepts in order to successfully see and interpret what the camera is seeing, and provide an augmented reality experience based on that information.

ARCore uses simultaneous localization and mapping, or SLAM, to understand where the phone is exactly relative to the world around it. It manages to compute changes in location by detecting visually distinct features in the captured camera image and then using that as feature points to know if it changed location and the features of that location. It uses these feature points to detect planes or horizontal/vertical surfaces, and uses that for additional context.

To infer the camera’s pose (position and orientation) relative to the environment over time, that visual information is also paired with inertial measurements from the device’s IMU. Using this information and context, developers can render things over the camera feed and make it look as if they were part of the real world. It can also infer how much light is there in a plane and using that context, and make a rendered image look brighter or darker according to how much light ARCore thinks is hitting it.

These fundamental concepts are a pretty good read that you should check out if you’re interested in knowing the ins and outs of how ARCore does its magic. While there’s much more to the story than what that page says, it does give you a pretty good insight into how exactly it does what it does.

What phones can run ARCore?

Google ARCore

Google doesn’t put forward precise system requirements for ARCore-supported devices. All we know in that regard is that these supported devices need, at the very least, Android 7.0 Nougat to run, with Android 8.0 Oreo being the sweet spot. For some devices, however, newer Android versions may be required. But Google doesn’t publish system requirements for the platform for a specific reason — ARCore support actually needs to be manually toggled on by Google.

There are a few reasons why it’s like this. All phones that are supported by ARCore are manually tested and certified by Google to ensure the phone works optimally with the augmented reality services, including the quality of both the cameras and the motion sensors, as well as how well the CPU handles everything behind the screen. Nowadays though, most smartphones are powerful enough to actually support ARCore pretty much effortlessly, but phones still need to be manually certified to ensure full compatibility and to ensure that the device will deliver an optimal ARCore experience.

Several hundred ARCore devices are supported as of the time of writing. Some of them, from the most popular brands, include :

Google

  • Google Nexus 5X
  • Google Nexus 6P
  • Google Pixel
  • Google Pixel XL
  • Google Pixel 2
  • Google Pixel 2 XL
  • Google Pixel 3
  • Google Pixel 3 XL
  • Google Pixel 3a
  • Google Pixel 3a XL
  • Google Pixel 4
  • Google Pixel 4 XL
  • Google Pixel 4a
  • Google Pixel 4a 5G
  • Google Pixel 5

ASUS

  • ASUS ROG Phone
  • ASUS ROG Phone II
  • ASUS ROG Phone III
  • ASUS ROG Phone 5
  • ASUS Zenfone 6
  • ASUS Zenfone 7/7 Pro
  • ASUS Zenfone AR
  • ASUS Zenfone ARES

HMD Mobile

  • HMD Nokia 3.4
  • HMD Nokia 5.4
  • HMD Nokia 6 (2018)
  • HMD Nokia 6.1 Plus
  • HMD Nokia 6.2
  • HMD Nokia 7 Plus
  • HMD Nokia 7.1
  • HMD Nokia 7.2
  • HMD Nokia 8
  • HMD Nokia 8 Sirocco
  • HMD Nokia 8.1
  • HMD Nokia 8.3 5G

Huawei

  • Huawei Honor 8X
  • Huawei Honor 10
  • Huawei Honor View 10 Lite
  • Huawei Honor V20
  • Huawei Mate 20 Lite
  • Huawei Mate 20
  • Huawei Mate 20 Pro
  • Huawei Mate 20 X
  • Huawei Nova 3
  • Huawei Nova 3i
  • Huawei Nova 4
  • Huawei P20
  • Huawei P20 Pro
  • Huawei P30
  • Huawei P30 Pro
  • Huawei Porsche Design Mate RS
  • Huawei Porsche Design Mate 20 RS
  • Huawei Y9 2019

Lenovo

  • Lenovo K13 Note
  • Lenovo Tab P11 Pro

Motorola

  • Motorola Moto G5S Plus
  • Motorola Moto G6
  • Motorola Moto G6 Plus
  • Motorola Moto G7
  • Motorola Moto G7 Play
  • Motorola Moto G7 Plus
  • Motorola Moto G7 Power
  • Motorola Moto G7 Play
  • Motorola Moto G8
  • Motorola Moto G8 Play
  • Motorola Moto G8 Plus
  • Motorola Moto G8 Power
  • Motorola Moto G8 Power lite
  • Motorola Moto G9 Play
  • Motorola Moto G9 Plus
  • Motorola Moto G9 Power
  • Motorola Moto G 5G
  • Motorola Moto G Power 2021
  • Motorola Moto G Power
  • Motorola Moto G Pro
  • Motorola Moto G Stylus
  • Motorola Moto G Stylus (2020)
  • Motorola Moto G(100)
  • Motorola Moto G(50)
  • Motorola Moto G(30)
  • Motorola Moto G(10)
  • Motorola Edge
  • Motorola Edge S
  • Motorola Edge+
  • Motorola One
  • Motorola One 5G
  • Motorola One Action
  • Motorola One Fusion
  • Motorola One Fusion+
  • Motorola One Hyper
  • Motorola One Macro
  • Motorola One Power
  • Motorola One Zision
  • Motorola One Zoom
  • Motorola Moto X4
  • Motorola Moto Z2 force
  • Motorola Moto Z3
  • Motorola Moto Z3 play
  • Motorola Moto Z4

OnePlus

  • OnePlus 3T
  • OnePlus 5
  • OnePlus 5T
  • OnePlus 6
  • OnePlus 6T
  • OnePlus 7
  • OnePlus 7 Pro
  • OnePlus 7 Pro 5G
  • OnePlus 7T
  • OnePlus 7T Pro
  • OnePlus 8
  • OnePlus 8 Pro
  • OnePlus 8T
  • OnePlus 9
  • OnePlus 9 Pro
  • OnePlus 9R
  • OnePlus Nord
  • OnePlus Nord N10 5G

Oppo

  • Oppo A52
  • Oppo A72
  • Oppo A72 5G
  • Oppo A92
  • Oppo A92s
  • Oppo A93 5G
  • Oppo A94
  • Oppo F11 Pro
  • Oppo F15
  • Oppo F17 Pro
  • Oppo F19 Pro+
  • Oppo Find X2
  • Oppo Find X2 Pro
  • Oppo Find X3 Pro
  • Oppo K3
  • Oppo K5
  • Oppo R17 Pro
  • Oppo Reno
  • Oppo Reno 2
  • Oppo Reno 2 F
  • Oppo Reno 2 Z
  • Oppo Reno 3
  • Oppo Reno 3 5G
  • Oppo Reno 3 A
  • Oppo Reno 3 Pro
  • Oppo Reno 3 Pro 5G
  • Oppo Reno 4 4G
  • Oppo Reno 4 SE 5G
  • Oppo Reno 5 A
  • Oppo Reno 5 5G
  • Oppo Reno 5 Pro 4G
  • Oppo Reno 5 Pro 5G
  • Oppo Reno 5 Pro+ 5G
  • Oppo Reno 6 Pro+ 5G
  • Oppo Reno 10x Zoom
  • Oppo Reno A
  • Oppo Reno Z

Realme

  • Realme 5
  • Realme 5 Pro
  • Realme 6
  • Realme 6 Pro
  • Realme 7
  • Realme 7i
  • Realme 7 Pro
  • Realme 8 Pro
  • Realme Narzo 20 Pro
  • Realme Q
  • Realme X
  • Realme X Lite
  • Realme XT
  • Realme X2
  • Realme X2 Pro
  • Realme X3 Super Zoom
  • Realme X7 5G
  • Realme X7 Pro 5G
  • Realme X50 Pro
  • Realme X50t 5G
  • Realme V5 5G
  • Realme V15 5G

Samsung

  • Samsung Galaxy A3 (2017)
  • Samsung Galaxy A5 (2017)
  • Samsung Galaxy A6 (2018)
  • Samsung Galaxy A7 (2017)
  • Samsung Galaxy A7 (2018)
  • Samsung Galaxy A8
  • Samsung Galaxy A8+ (2018)
  • Samsung Galaxy A20
  • Samsung Galaxy A20s
  • Samsung Galaxy A20e
  • Samsung Galaxy A22 5G
  • Samsung Galaxy A30
  • Samsung Galaxy A30s
  • Samsung Galaxy A31
  • Samsung Galaxy A32
  • Samsung Galaxy A32 5G
  • Samsung Galaxy A40
  • Samsung Galaxy A41
  • Samsung Galaxy A42 5G
  • Samsung Galaxy A50
  • Samsung Galaxy A50s
  • Samsung Galaxy A51
  • Samsung Galaxy A51 5G
  • Samsung Galaxy A52
  • Samsung Galaxy A52 5G
  • Samsung Galaxy A60
  • Samsung Galaxy A70
  • Samsung Galaxy A70s
  • Samsung Galaxy A71
  • Samsung Galaxy A71 5G
  • Samsung Galaxy A72
  • Samsung Galaxy A80
  • Samsung Galaxy A90 5G
  • Samsung Galaxy F41
  • Samsung Galaxy F62
  • Samsung Galaxy Fold
  • Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2 5G
  • Samsung Galaxy J5 (2017)
  • Samsung Galaxy J5 Pro
  • Samsung Galaxy J7 (2017)
  • Samsung Galaxy J7 Pro
  • Samsung Galaxy M20
  • Samsung Galaxy M21
  • Samsung Galaxy M30s
  • Samsung Galaxy M31
  • Samsung Galaxy M31s
  • Samsung Galaxy M51
  • Samsung Galaxy M62
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 8
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 9
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 10
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 10 5G
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 10+
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 10+ 5G
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Lite
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 20 5G
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra 5G
  • Samsung Galaxy Quantum 2
  • Samsung Galaxy S7
  • Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge
  • Samsung Galaxy S8
  • Samsung Galaxy S8+
  • Samsung Galaxy S9 Exynos
  • Samsung Galaxy S9 Qualcomm
  • Samsung Galaxy S9+ Exynos
  • Samsung Galaxy S9+ Qualcomm
  • Samsung Galaxy S10e Exynos
  • Samsung Galaxy S10e Qualcomm
  • Samsung Galaxy S10 Exynos
  • Samsung Galaxy S10 Qualcomm
  • Samsung Galaxy S10+ Exynos
  • Samsung Galaxy S10+ Qualcomm
  • Samsung Galaxy S10 5G
  • Samsung Galaxy S10 Lite
  • Samsung Galaxy S20
  • Samsung Galaxy S20 5G
  • Samsung Galaxy S20+
  • Samsung Galaxy S20+ 5G
  • Samsung Galaxy S20 Fan Edition
  • Samsung Galaxy S20 Fan Edition 5G
  • Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra 5G
  • Samsung Galaxy S21 5G
  • Samsung Galaxy S21+ 5G
  • Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab A7
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab Active 3
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab Active Pro
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab S3
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab S4
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab S5e
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab S6
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab S6 Lite
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab S7
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab S7+
  • Samsung Galaxy XCover Pro
  • Samsung Galaxy Z Flip
  • Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 5G

Sharp

  • Sharp AQUOS R3
  • Sharp AQUOS R5G
  • Sharp AQUOS sense3
  • Sharp AQUOS sense3 basic
  • Sharp AQUOS sense3 plus
  • Sharp AQUOS sense4
  • Sharp AQUOS sense4 basic
  • Sharp AQUOS sense4 lite
  • Sharp AQUOS sense4 plus
  • Sharp AQUOS sense5G
  • Sharp AQUOS zero2
  • Sharp AQUOS zero5G basic
  • Sharp AQUOS zero5G basic DX
  • Sharp S7

Sony

  • Sony Xperia XZ Premium
  • Sony Xperia XZ1
  • Sony Xperia XZ1 Compact
  • Sony Xperia XZ2
  • Sony Xperia XZ2 Compact
  • Sony Xperia XZ2 Premium
  • Sony Xperia XZ3
  • Sony Xperia 1
  • Sony Xperia 1 Professional Edition
  • Sony Xperia 1 II
  • Sony Xperia 5
  • Sony Xperia 5 II
  • Sony Xperia PRO

TCL

  • TCL 10 5G UW

Vivo

  • Vivo Nex 3
  • Vivo Nex 3 5G
  • Vivo NEX S
  • Vivo NEX Dual Display Edition
  • Vivo iQOO 3 4G
  • Vivo iQOO 3 5G
  • Vivo V17
  • Vivo V20
  • Vivo V20 Pro
  • Vivo X23
  • Vivo X50
  • Vivo X50 Pro
  • Vivo X50e 5G
  • Vivo X60 Pro

Xiaomi

  • Xiaomi Mi 8
  • Xiaomi Mi 8 SE
  • Xiaomi Mi 9
  • Xiaomi Mi 9 Lite
  • Xiaomi Mi 9 SE
  • Xiaomi Mi 10
  • Xiaomi Mi 10i
  • Xiaomi Mi 10 Lite
  • Xiaomi Mi 10 Lite 5G
  • Xiaomi Mi 10 Lite Zoom
  • Xiaomi Mi 10 Pro
  • Xiaomi Mi 10T Pro
  • Xiaomi Mi 11
  • Xiaomi Mi A3
  • Xiaomi Mi Mix 2S
  • Xiaomi Mi Mix 3
  • Xiaomi Mi Note 10
  • Xiaomi Mi Note 10 Lite
  • Xiaomi Pocophone F1
  • Xiaomi POCO X2
  • Xiaomi POCO X3
  • Xiaomi POCO X3 NFC
  • Xiaomi POCO M2 Pro
  • Xiaomi Redmi K20
  • Xiaomi Redmi K20 Pro
  • Xiaomi Redmi K30
  • Xiaomi Redmi K30 Pro
  • Xiaomi Redmi K40 Pro/Pro+
  • Xiaomi Redmi Note 7
  • Xiaomi Redmi Note 7 Pro
  • Xiaomi Redmi Note 8
  • Xiaomi Redmi Note 8 Pro
  • Xiaomi Redmi Note 8T
  • Xiaomi Redmi Note 9 Pro
  • Xiaomi Redmi Note 9 Pro Max
  • Xiaomi Redmi Note 9S
  • Xiaomi Redmi Note 9 (5G)

ZTE

  • ZTE Libero 5G

There’s also a handful of China-only phones that are supported by ARCore, some of which are not counted on this list. To use ARCore on one of these Chinese smartphones, there’s no Google Play or Google Play Services to grab it from, but Google does make the ‘Google Play Services for AR’ component available standalone on alternative China app stores, such as Huawei’s AppGallery, Xiaomi’s App Store, Oppo’s App Market, and so on.

Should I care about ARCore support?

ARCore updates — Google I/O 2021

ARCore enables some pretty cool technology and use-cases for your everyday life, and Google is completely invested in this tech to make it better every single day. The best example of this is the Measure app. This app was actually borrowed from Project Tango, and while far from being something absolutely precise, it allows you to accurately measure real-life things by using your phone’s camera. I’ve used it to measure things ranging from people, dogs, and even trees—and at most, it was off by just a couple of centimeters. While Google has killed off the app, the underlying tech of AR continues to thrive beyond this use case.

If you’re into tattoos, there’s also an app called InkHunter, which uses ARCore to allow you to try out a tattoo and see whether you like the way it looks on you before you actually book an appointment with your tattoo artist. This is particularly useful if you’re undecided about multiple designs or with the location of the tattoo itself.

Other apps like Snapchat and TikTok also leverage ARCore’s technology on Android smartphones to enhance their own, in-app augmented reality experiences as well, including improvements even down to things like face detection.

Lots of use-cases like these exist. eBay has a feature to display a box in AR to figure out what would be the best box for shipping something. Wayfair allows you to place furniture in your home virtually so you can see how well it’d look in your home. ColorSnap Visualizer can paint your walls with AR so you can preview colors before you actually put any paint on your wall. You can even use it for studying, taking advantage of apps like GeoGebra for math/algebra and Human Anatomy Atlas for anatomy.

ColorSnap® Visualizer
ColorSnap® Visualizer
GeoGebra 3D Calculator
GeoGebra 3D Calculator
Developer: GeoGebra
Price: Free

Of course, perhaps its most widespread use to date is in games. Several games leverage this technology to deliver richer, more precise and engaging AR experiences during gameplay. Pokémon GO started up the trend of AR games and was all the rage when it came out in 2016, making for a very interesting summer. Nowadays, Pokémon GO uses ARCore, and so do games like Five Nights at Freddy’s AR: Special Delivery, Jurassic World Alive, The Walking Dead: Our World, and more.

The Bottom Line

ARCore, as a concept, is amazing. It’s probably far from one of the best solutions for displaying AR content, but it’s streamlined, works on most modern Android phones, and doesn’t require any specialized hardware. It has big advantages for both scalability and overall platform adoption, and it keeps being improved upon by Google to improve efficiency and precision. It’s often directly compared to ARKit, Apple’s own AR solution that also doesn’t require any special hardware (although it recently started taking advantage of the LiDAR sensor included in some Apple devices). But ARCore has big advantages, like the fact that a majority of the global market is using Android, not to mention that ARCore can also be used on iOS.

The amazing uses it gives users are truly fascinating. Placing furniture, measuring things, and trying out tattoos are things that would definitely come in handy for a lot of people. But, for the most part, the number of apps that leverage ARCore—or ARKit on iOS, for that matter — is pretty limited. AR on smartphones isn’t really something that’s used in a widespread manner just yet. It might get there one day, as the Pokémon GO frenzy of 2016 demonstrated, but it needs more integration with the real world for that to happen.

As of now, however, ARCore is a cool feature to have. Probably a niche feature that only enthusiasts really use in a semi-constant manner, but cool nonetheless.

About author

Arol Wright
Arol Wright

Diehard technology enthusiast, and an Android purist by nature. While I have a soft spot for smartphones, I'm deeply interested in everything techy, be it PCs, gaming consoles, gadgets, you name it. Please direct all inquiries/tips to [email protected]