Mobile World Congress kicks off this weekend, and to celebrate, Google is launching version 1.0 of its "ARCore" Augmented Reality framework. Just like Apple's ARKit, ARCore allows normal smartphones to run augmented reality apps. ARCore apps will either overlay 3D objects on top of the phone's camera feed or allow you to use the phone as a camera in a 3D world, moving your viewpoint around as you move the phone.
For version 1.0, Google is greatly expanding the compatible devices for ARCore. Since ARCore requires calibration and a custom setup per device model, the minimum requirements aren't based on an Android version but are instead limited to specific models. While the preview only supported the Google Pixels and Samsung Galaxy S8, today ARCore 1.0 is coming to a wide selection of flagship Android phones.
Google's blog post lists the following phones as compatible: "Google’s Pixel, Pixel XL, Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL; Samsung’s Galaxy S8, S8+, Note8, S7 and S7 edge; LGE’s V30 and V30+ (Android O only); ASUS’s Zenfone AR; and OnePlus’s OnePlus 5." All together, that's about 100 million devices that can run augmented reality apps. In the future, Google says, "Samsung, Huawei, LGE, Motorola, ASUS, Xiaomi, HMD/Nokia, ZTE, Sony Mobile, and Vivo" will bring ARCore to their upcoming smartphone releases.
Another interesting tidbit is that Google is also launching ARCore in China. This move will be tough, since Google does almost no business in China—there's no Google apps, no Play Store, and no Google Play Services. Google will get around its distribution problems by partnering with OEMs like Huawei, Xiaomi, and Samsung, allowing even non-Google Play devices to use ARCore apps.
Version 1.0 also means developers can now publish ARCore apps in the Play Store. Snap Inc is a big early booster for ARCore, having already built a "Snapchat experience" on the framework that transports people to Camp Nou stadium, the home of FC Barcelona. There is also Google's AR Stickers app, which allows you to place Star Wars (and other) characters into the real world, but that's still a Pixel 2 exclusive.