Alphabet Inc’s (NASDAQ:GOOGL) has decided to shut down Project Tango.
Right now, augmented reality is on the forefront of the smartphone wars. Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) is getting much of the spotlight for its ARKit integration in iOS11 and the TrueDepth camera system on the iPhone X. But many people forget that Google was actually on board the AR wagon first with Project Tango.
Augmented reality is still important to Google. Google isn’t abandoning AR to Apple. Keeping consumers on Android smartphones and using Google apps is critical to maintaining the mobile ad revenue that drives GOOGL stock. So instead, Google is shifting priority to ARCore, the new augmented reality platform for Android that launched this summer.
Google Announces It’s Winding Down Project Tango
On Friday, Google announced on its Twitter account that support for Project Tango ends on March 1, 2018. This marks the end of an ambitious attempt to master augmented reality that began three years ago with a very expensive tablet packing a souped-up processor, extra cameras and sensors, and real-time 3D mapping capabilities. There was even a Tango app store.
Project Tango was AR on a mobile platform long before the gold rush of Pokémon Go. Years before Apple decided that augmented reality was going to be a revolution, the next big thing was to push consumers into upgrading to new smartphones.
Once manufacturers figured out how to pack the needed hardware into a smaller form factor, Tango made the leap from tablets to smartphones. But the technology never went mainstream and never really caught on with consumers. Do you know anyone who bought an Asus ZenFone AR? Didn’t think so. Released in August, ZenFone AR appears to be the last smartphone that will support Project Tango.
ARCore Takes up the Augmented Reality Banner for Android
Project Tango was always a gamble because of the expensive hardware required. Apple recognized the potential in AR and developed ARKit, which deployed augmented reality to millions of existing iPhones. Owners of the new iPhone X get extra capabilities — including Animoji — because of the TrueDepth camera system, but ARKit apps are designed to run on any recent iPhone.
Google is working on a similar augmented reality API for Android smartphones. Like Apple’s ARKit, ARCore accomplishes much of what Project Tango could do, but without the reliance on expensive, customized hardware. And as Ars Technica points out, much of the Project Tango code was rolled into ARCore.
The next big step for Google is to get ARCore into widespread adoption. Right now, it’s available only on its own Pixel phones and Samsung’s Galaxy S8. The company released Star Wars and Stranger Things AR stickers for the Pixel Phone last week, but having augmented reality available only on select smartphones doesn’t do much for GOOGL stock.
However, the company is targeting a winter release of ARCore v. 1.0, which it says will support over 100 million devices, followed by an expected flood of augmented reality apps in the Google Play store.
Project Tango may be dead, but it built the framework for ARCore in Android. And if Apple is right about augmented reality being the next revolution in smartphones, then ARCore gives Google — and GOOGL stock — a much better shot at capitalizing on it than Project Tango ever did.
As of this writing, Brad Moon did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities.