Tango vs ARCore: What is the Future of AR on Android?

Difference Between Tango and ARCore

Google originally dropped the Project moniker in front of Project Tango just last June to signal it was out of beta and the new hardware focused AR program was ready for the mainstream. Two consumer devices were launched including the Lenovo Phab 2 Pro and the newer Asus Zenfone AR.

These devices have some extra hardware to help them sense where you are in the world as well as where other items are (super important in AR applications, of course). These include a barometer for elevation, dedicated motion tracking camera, dedicated infrared depth-sensing camera, a high megapixel traditional camera to help it with viewing objects, etc. And all in all, sounds like a great recipe for AR apps, right?

Well, just weeks after the Zenfone AR was released, Google did something odd. They announced ARCore, a software only AR solution that can technically work on any Android phone instead of Tango that requires specialized hardware on the device. Doesn’t that kinda kill Tango? Why would you buy a specialized Tango phone to do AR if you can now do it on the current Android phone you have?

Why Google Moved to ARCore

First up, we need to talk about why Google launched ARCore. And it comes down to developers and scale.

People are all excited about AR, it’s new it’s cool to see and has a lot more real world uses than VR frankly but the amount of apps for it out there is still super limited. The reason being that Tango’s inherent issue is the fact that there are only two consumer devices out and the total market share by device rounded up to the nearest hundredth is 0.00%.

Now, let’s combine that with the fact Apple just weeks before ARCore was announced announced ARKit, the same concept of bringing AR capabilities to iOS devices and it’s pretty clear what both companies are trying to do and why Google didn’t have much choice: give developers hundreds of millions and even billions of potential devices already out in the wild that could run their AR apps. Yeah, more appealing if you’re trying to make money from your app, no?

ARKit

Why You’d Choose One Over the Other

Now the real question, then comes down to why you’d choose one over the other. Technically, you probably won’t have a choice eventually as Google will simply start putting the depth-sensing tech from Tango into more Android devices without actually calling it Tango or even pointing out too much that it’s even in there, sort of like what they do with Daydream, but just my guess.
But, for the sake of the fact that currently they are both out, which would you choose?

Well, the big thing that sets apart Tango from ARCore is accuracy and speed. Tango, with it’s infrared camera and other depth-sensing tech is much better are putting objects in space and then keeping them there–even if you leave the room and come back. It uses the actual 3D map data it’s gathered instead of simply noticing planes in a video feed and tracking those like ARCore (and ARKit for that matter) does. ARCore (and ARKit, again) work just fine when used on a table, for example, and decent in more complicated things, but let’s say you wanted to accurately measuring an entire room, building, whatever with curves, ridges, peaks: Tango will always win.

AR Positioning

Really, the bigger thing for Tango I think right now is on the B2B side. If a company wanted to create a customized app for using in their factories to help workers fix machinery or navigate the crazy factory layout, etc. buying a set of the Asus Zenfone AR’s and developing on that would be far more reliable than either ARKit or ARCore, but for average consumers who just want to try out some table top games, measure a dresser, why invest in the extra hardware when you’re going to get something close enough for that on your current phone soon enough.

Now, a lot of the things in Project Tango have been instrumental in the development of ARCore for Google, after all it’s been around since 2014 and been done in conjunction with tons of developing partners. My big question through all this though is did Google know it would always kill Tango and move to ARCore, did it tell Asus that when they signed on? What do you guys think, let me know in the comments below!

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