Posted by Shahram Izadi, Director of Research and Engineering
ARCore, our developer platform for building augmented reality (AR) experiences, allows your devices to display content immersively in the context of the world around us– making them instantly accessible and useful.
Earlier this year, we introduced Environmental HDR, which brings real world lighting to AR objects and scenes, enhancing immersion with more realistic reflections, shadows, and lighting. Today, we’re opening a call for collaborators to try another tool that helps improve immersion with the new Depth API in ARCore, enabling experiences that are vastly more natural, interactive, and helpful.
The ARCore Depth API allows developers to use our depth-from-motion algorithms to create a depth map using a single RGB camera. The depth map is created by taking multiple images from different angles and comparing them as you move your phone to estimate the distance to every pixel.
Example depth map, with red indicating areas that are close by, and blue representing areas that are farther away.
One important application for depth is occlusion: the ability for digital objects to accurately appear in front of or behind real world objects. Occlusion helps digital objects feel as if they are actually in your space by blending them with the scene. We will begin making occlusion available in Scene Viewer, the developer tool that powers AR in Search, to an initial set of over 200 million ARCore-enabled Android devices today.
A virtual cat with occlusion off and with occlusion on.
We’ve also been working with Houzz, a company that focuses on home renovation and design, to bring the Depth API to the “View in My Room” experience in their app. “Using the ARCore Depth API, people can see a more realistic preview of the products they’re about to buy, visualizing our 3D models right next to the existing furniture in a room,” says Sally Huang, Visual Technologies Lead at Houzz. “Doing this gives our users much more confidence in their purchasing decisions.”
In addition to enabling occlusion, having a 3D understanding of the world on your device unlocks a myriad of other possibilities. Our team has been exploring some of these, playing with realistic physics, path planning, surface interaction, and more.
Physics, path planning, and surface interaction examples.
When applications of the Depth API are combined together, you can also create experiences in which objects accurately bounce and splash across surfaces and textures, as well as new interactive game mechanics that enable players to duck and hide behind real-world objects.
The Depth API is not dependent on specialized cameras and sensors, and it will only get better as hardware improves. For example, the addition of depth sensors, like time-of-flight (ToF) sensors, to new devices will help create more detailed depth maps to improve existing capabilities like occlusion, and unlock new capabilities such as dynamic occlusion—the ability to occlude behind moving objects.
We’ve only begun to scratch the surface of what’s possible with the Depth API and we want to see how you will innovate with this feature. If you are interested in trying the new Depth API, please fill out our call for collaborators form.