Now that Google’s newest augmented reality project, ARCore, is out and functioning, the company is ready to admit that its old augmented reality project—Tango—is dead. Google took to Twitter today to announce that Tango support would be shut down on March 1, 2018.
Tango was Google’s first big augmented reality push, and it solved the problem of position tracking with lots and lots of extra hardware. Tango devices basically packed the entirety of an Xbox Kinect—an IR projector, a time-of-flight camera, and a fisheye motion camera—into the back of a smartphone. The extra sensors allowed the phone to see in full 3D, which was mostly used to bring consumers a small handful of augmented reality games. The first Project Tango device, the Lenovo Phab 2 Pro, was an expensive, slow, massive device with ugly looks and poor battery life. The second and last Tango phone to ever be released, the Asus ZenFone AR, improved on the hardware a bit, but by then the platform seemed dead.
Even with all the extra hardware, Tango’s tracking was never that great. The constant drifting and other tracking errors made some of the coolest apps, like a measuring tape, unreliable for even small measurements. One amazing app, called “Matterport Scenes,” turned the phone into a handheld 3D scanner, but the tracking errors meant your scans were never great at picking up detail. The app also absolutely crushed the Tango hardware and, after a few minutes of scanning things, would close with an out-of-memory error. Even games never really took off on the platform thanks to the low install base.
Google says it looks forward to “continuing the journey with you on ARCore,” which is Google’s revamped take on augmented reality. ARCore can’t see in 3D, but it accomplishes much of the same positional tracking as Tango without all the extra hardware. For now, the framework only works on Google’s Pixel phones and the Galaxy S8. But with Samsung, LG, Huawei, ASUS, and other companies on board, Google says ARCore will have access to 100 million users when the 1.0 launch happens some time this winter. The latest release of ARCore, Developer Preview 2, just came out today.
On the Pixel phones, Google is already shipping ARCore-powered apps. The first is the new “AR Stickers” mode for the camera. This new camera mode will allow you to place little characters in your camera scenes, which will stick to flat surfaces and match the lighting, making them look like they are part of the real world. Google went out and licensed Star Wars and Stranger Things characters for the mode, and the company has been heavily advertising the feature on TV.
Don’t cry for Project Tango. The SDK still mostly lives on in ARCore, which is so heavily based on Tango that the first SDK was still called “Tango.” The hardware-heavy technology also lives on in “WorldSense,” a tracking technology Google is building for standalone VR headsets.
Source: ARS Technica