While some degree of peace is appropriate, it’s true that ARKit is about to achieve something special by being available on so many phones and tablets with just a software update. This is the thing that makes owners Android wonder why Google didn’t go that route, choosing instead to invest so much in what we now call Tango.
While checking out the ASUS ZenFone AR, the first Tango phones that people will actually buy, I decided to ask and see what people who work with this technology every day have to say.
Much of understanding the functional difference between ARKit and Tango is actually trying out the two approaches to AR for yourself. Apple’s approach is simple, easy, and fun. ARKit allows you to select a point in front of the phone, and there is an extended layer on that point. You can bypass this point, and you can walk back and forth from this point, and the combination of motion sensors and accelerometers in iPhone gives you a reasonably accurate translation in the real world. If you haven’t seen the demo video yet, you should.
But if you’re going to call ARKit high-end augmented reality, it’s almost appropriate to call Tango something else. Tango cannot be released to the world with a software update because it requires specialized hardware to be aware of the world around it. When you place a virtual object in front of you with Tango, your phone can detect much more than just a single dot. The software is able to «see» the shapes around it. Tango phones can detect which wall you are on in the room you are in and detect when you left the room with a virtual object in it.
What you can do with Tango opens doors to a universe of things that ARKit just can’t do, and it’s not from me. After showing me how Wayfair plans to use Tango to let you place furniture in your home before you buy it, lead researcher and developer Mike Fiesta explained why Tango is the platform he has worked with the most.
I was very impressed with tango. It is very stable and accurate. We started working with the dev kit two years ago and it’s come a long way since then. You can move things around the room, leave and come back, and when you do, everything stays in place. I was really impressed with the zoom and tracking.
While Wayfair is often seen as just a retail company, the tech side of Wayfair is actively using all forms of VR and AR to better understand how people shop. According to Fiesta, Wayfair eventually plans to use Tango to scan furniture in AR when the cameras are good enough to create the kind of millimeter precision needed for this sort of thing. He also pointed out that the number one barrier for many novice AR users now, regardless of platform, is trying to pinch to zoom in rather than just lean closer to a virtual object to see more of it.
ASUS firmly believes that Tango will be what developers will strive to create content-rich AR applications.
So will these functional differences matter to consumers? ASUS seems to think so after reaching out to several PR and product people who have used the technology in the past couple of months. For ASUS, Tango is what you buy when you want to experience the best in AR.
What Apple is doing with ARKit is impressive, of course, but there haven’t been any demos of any creature yet. It’s cool to see a rocket on a drone ship, but ASUS firmly believes that Tango will be where developers go to build important AR apps. A rich interactive experience that lasts for more than a few minutes is what Tango was made for, and Asus expects that difference to quickly clear up when comparing the two platforms this holiday season.
Of course, the experiences described here weren’t even showcased at an event that ASUS held to celebrate this very phone. Of the six AR demos presented, the longest experience I had was only a couple of minutes. It’s fun to walk around a BMW i3 once or twice and don’t want a photo next to a virtual Lion, but it takes time to show off the more complex tango experience that ASUS didn’t want to spend on a show floor. These apps already exist and those who buy in the ZenFone AR field will love them, but it sounds a little empty to boast that they are more capable than the unfinished and not yet publicly available ARKit, only to then show things that even one of the «Product Specialists» at the ZenFone AR event admitted to being a bit useless.