A new wave of AR Realism with the ARCore Depth API

Posted by Rajat Paharia, Product Lead, AR Platform

Since the launch of ARCore, our developer platform for building augmented reality (AR) experiences, we’ve been focused on providing APIs that help developers seamlessly blend the digital and physical worlds.

At the end of last year, we announced a preview of the ARCore Depth API, which uses our depth-from-motion algorithms to generate a depth map with a single RGB camera. Since then, we’ve been working with select collaborators to explore how depth can be used across a range of use cases to enhance AR realism.

Today, we’re taking a major step forward and announcing the Depth API is available in ARCore 1.18 for Android and Unity, including AR Foundation, across hundreds of millions of compatible Android devices.

Generate a depth map without specialized hardware to unlock capabilities like occlusion

As we highlighted last year, a key capability of the Depth API is occlusion: the ability for digital objects to accurately appear behind real world objects. This makes objects feel as if they’re actually in your space, creating a more realistic AR experience.

Illumix, the game studio behind Five Nights at Freddy’s AR: Special Delivery, uses occlusion to deepen the realism of the experience by allowing certain characters to hide behind objects for more startling jump scares.

Play Five Nights at Freddy’s AR: Special Delivery

While occlusion is an important capability, the ARCore Depth API unlocks more ways to increase realism and enables new interaction types. The ARCore Depth Lab spurred more ideas on how depth can be used, including realistics physics, surface interactions, environmental traversal, and more. Developers can now build on these ideas through the open sourced GitHub project.

Experiment with ARCore Depth Lab on the Google Play Store

The designers and engineers at Snap Inc. integrated several of these ideas into a set of Snapchat Lenses including the Dancing Hotdog and a new Android exclusive Undersea World Lens.

See how depth can add a layer of realism to your Snapchat experience

Snapchat Lens Creators can now download an ARCore Depth API template to create depth-based experiences for compatible Android devices. Sam Hare, Research Engineering Manager at Snap Inc, expressed his excitement, “We’re beginning to understand what kinds of depth capabilities are exciting for developers to build with. This single integration point streamlines and simplifies the development process and enables Lens Studio developers to easily take advantage of advanced depth capabilities.”

Another app that combines occlusion with other depth capabilities is Lines of Play, an Android experiment from the Google Creative Lab. Lines of Play lets users create domino art in AR, and uses depth information to showcase both occlusion and collisions. Design elaborate domino creations, topple them over and watch them collide with the furniture and walls in your room.

Watch as domino pieces topple into each other and onto your walls with Lines of Play

In addition to gaming and self-expression, depth can also be used to unlock new utility use cases. For example, the TeamViewer Pilot app, a remote assistance solution that enables AR annotations on video calls, uses depth to better understand the environment so experts around the world can more precisely apply real time 3D AR annotations for remote support and maintenance.

3D annotations help experts accurately highlight details in the TeamViewer Pilot app

Later this year, you will be able to try more depth-enabled AR experiences such as SKATRIX by Reality Crisis and SPLASHAAR by ForwARdgames, that use surface interactions and environmental traversal as they make rich use of the environment around you.

Check out surface interactions and environmental traversal in SKATRIX, and SPLASHAAR

While depth sensors, such as time-of-flight (ToF) sensors, are not required for the Depth API to work, having them will further improve the quality of experiences. Dr. Soo Wan Kim, Camera Technical Product Manager at Samsung commented on the future that the Depth API and ToF unlocks saying, “Depth will enrich user’s AR experience in many perspectives. It will reduce scanning time, and can detect planes fast, even low textured planes. These will bring seamless experiences to users who will be able to use AR apps more easily and frequently.” In the coming months, Samsung will update their Quick Measure app to use the ARCore Depth API on the Galaxy Note10+ and Galaxy S20 Ultra.

Accurately measure with Quick Measure

The ARCore Depth API will be rolling out today. Check back later for the SDK and updates to our developer site.

Blending Realities with the ARCore Depth API

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

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.”
The Houzz app with occlusion is available today.

The Houzz app with occlusion is available today.

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.
A demo experience we created where you have to dodge and throw food at a robot chef

A demo experience we created where you have to dodge and throw food at a robot chef.

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.