Google ARCore Is Killing Tango

Google Tango is dead. Long live ARCore.

With a single tweet, Google has publicly announced it will kill Tango. Effective March 1, 2018, developers will no longer have access to the 3D mapping platform. Google won’t support Tango beyond that date, either.

With the advent of ARCore, which seems like the natural progression from Tango, Google has decided high-end 3D is no longer important. It’s also a sensible move; Tango required dedicated hardware, and only two phones were ever made specifically to support Tango. Those devices, the Lenovo Phab 2 and Asus ZenFone AR, didn’t sell well.

It’s a hard left-turn from Google, too. The Tango developer page has a bold banner across the top alerting devs to the change, and the Tango landing page (non-developer) is dead. The Tweet itself links to the ARCore developer portal.

Tango’s demise is ushered in by a second developer preview for ARCore. Still not available to the public, ARCore nonetheless added a few key features that devs will enjoy:

  • “A new C API for use with the Android NDK that complements our existing Java, Unity, and Unreal SDKs.
  • “Functionality that lets AR apps pause and resume AR sessions, for example to let a user return to an AR app after taking a phone call.
  • “Improved accuracy and runtime efficiency across our anchor, plane finding, and point cloud APIs.”

Those three features shed a lot of light on Google’s status vis-a-vis augmented reality, too. Pausing an augmented reality session to take a phone call feels very much like day-one development for consumer-facing AR; so does support for C.

It also tells us that much of Tango is now woven into the foundation of ARCore. Google’s blog post announcing the second developer preview cleverly frames it as the result of the company’s “earliest investments in Project Tango.” When ARCore launched, we noted Tango suddenly felt very niche (and clearly Google agreed with that sentiment). Fortunately, augmented reality will be much harder to drop cold, so there’s little reason to think ARCore will meet its demise anytime soon.

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