ARCore is Android’s version of Apple ARKit. It's a baked-in augmented reality platform that developers can leverage.

It's different from the now-discontinued Tango, another AR effort by Google that relies on custom hardware requirements. ARCore is less powerful than Tango, but that's okay. It's meant to be more accessible. Google said it will work with 100 million existing and upcoming devices.

While virtual reality immerses you into a space, replacing everything you see in a physical world, Augmented reality (AR) takes the world around you and adds virtual objects over it.

With AR, for instance, you can look around a room with your's phone display and see a Pokemon standing in front of you.

What is ARCore?

ARCore is a platform that enables Android app developers to quickly and easily build AR experiences into their apps and games. It can use your Android device's camera, processors, and motion sensors in order to serve up immersive interactions.

Google has been exploring AR for a while, thanks to Tango which required a phone with custom hardware like two extra cameras. However, ARCore is a more accessible tech.

How does ARCore work?

ARCore has three elements: motion tracking, which figures out a phone’s location based on internal sensors and video, enabling you to pin objects and walk around them; environmental understanding, which uses a phone's camera to detect flat surfaces; and light estimation, which helps virtual objects in an AR experience have accurate shadows, and thus, fit in with their real-life surroundings.

Developers could use ARCore to let your phone point out specific buildings or street corners or pinpoint indoor locations within a few centimetres.

Or, for example, imagine searching for a guide to your complicated treadmill, but all you have to do is take a picture of the machine, and an app could then conduct a visual search in order to identify it and overlay instructions or serve up a YouTube video or PDF manual. 

Do developers need to use ARCore?

No. Android developers could already make AR apps without ARCore, just like iOS developers could make AR apps without ARKit.

After all, before these platforms emerged, apps like Pokemon Go were available. ARCore just makes it easier for developers to add AR experiences into their apps. For instance, Google claimed that it has optimised ARCore’s performance more than an outside developer could do.

Experienced developers will want to use Java/OpenGL, Unity, and Unreal, but other developers - who are new to 3D design - can export ARCore objects from Google’s new Tilt Brush VR painting app or Blocks modeling tool.

Can all Android phones use ARCore? 

Not all of them, there's a list of supported devices. Google Play Services for AR is available via the Google Play Store for supported devices.

Broadly speaking, ARCore requires Android 7.0 or later (some phones in the list have or require newer versions as noted below). The phone also needs to have Google Mobile Services (GMS) and the Google Play Store.