Mere weeks after announcing Project Tango was out of beta, Google revealed its software-only augmented reality program, ARCore. Google’s announcement followed the release of Apple’s ARKit, which brought AR to millions of Apple devices via a software update, giving developers plenty of options to run their programs on.
Currently, there are only two devices that utilize Tango: The Lenovo Phab 2 Pro and the Asus Zenfone AR. They are both optimized with extra hardware — such as a barometer, motion-tracking camera, and an infrared depth-sensing camera — which improve the function of various AR applications. ARCore, which will run on many Android phones and doesn’t require specific hardware components, has made these two phones redundant.
Tango has been around in some capacity or another since 2014, but the number of AR apps on its devices are limited. Both the Lenovo Phab 2 Pro and the Asus Zenfone AR are severely underrepresented in the smartphone industry. ARCore is smart move for Google considering the reach and implications of its competitor’s platform, which is why Google decided to shut down Tango come March 1, 2018.
But how different are the two technologies? Despite its limitations, Tango’s refined hardware makes it faster and more accurate than ARCore. Instead of tracking planes in a video feed like ARCore and ARKit does, Tango uses its hardware to compile a 3D map of a designated area, one that allows you to leave objects in space and return to them later.
While ARCore and ARKit work well on a table and other flat surfaces, Tango is much more successful in mapping larger or irregular shapes, specifically rooms and buildings.
But even though Tango is objectively a better system than ARCore, the new augmented reality program will be able to bring AR to more devices. That’s exciting for consumers and developers who are interested in the budding technology, and gives us opportunities to see more content.
Google will likely take what it learned from Tango and use that knowledge to improve ARCore, which is still in beta. Moving forward, however, we might see elements of Tango’s hardware incorporated into devices running ARCore.
David Cogen — a regular contributor here at Digital Trends — runs TheUnlockr, a popular tech blog that focuses on tech news, tips and tricks, and the latest tech. You can also find him on Twitter discussing the latest tech trends.