Many of the augmented reality or AR apps we have on our smartphones are often used for transient things, from whimsical AR stickers to arrows and directions you’ll probably only need once. Augmenting the real world digitally, however, becomes even more interesting when such virtual objects stick around, ready for the next time you return to the exact same spot. That’s what ARCore’s Cloud Anchors API is for and Google is now opening it up to more developers to empower them to craft more persistent AR experiences.
Games like Pokemon GO have made the idea of location-based AR more normal but that’s barely the tip of the AR iceberg. In most cases, the AR objects you see on your phone are for your eyes only, unseen by anyone even if they’re standing nearby. Most of the time, these objects also vanish the moment you leave or turn off the app, requiring you to restart and recreate the objects all over again.
Introduced last year, ARCore’s Cloud Anchors enables more persistent AR apps to be created. This can range from having the same geographical location display persistent AR objects or making an AR app remember where you left one such object in your house and pick up where you left off the next time. More importantly, these objects can be seen by others, as if the objects existed in the real world in time and space, invisible except through a smartphone.
The applications for Cloud Anchors are almost limitless, from recreating historical scenes right in their real-world spots to watching an AR forest grow where you planted a tree in your room. Virtual murals and messages can be left in some memorable places for others to see and you can even try out new furniture and appliances in the same place over and over again.
Of course, these experiences won’t create themselves. Fortunately, Google has had a headstart last year and has partnered with the likes of Lowes, South Korea’s SK Telecom, and the Swedish Railways to prepare such apps. Hopefully, these improvements and new features mean that ARCore won’t be going away anytime soon, unlike the now-retired Daydream VR platform.