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Google's new depth feature makes AR experiences more realistic

For the first time, Google is launching this new depth function, which it launched with augmented reality animals earlier this year. For example, if you search for the word "cat," the Google search card displays a picture of a 3D cat. Select "Show in your room" and the app will access your camera and show you the cat in the real world around you. To show the features of the new ARCore Depth API, you can also enable or disable the occlusion. When disabled, the cat floats above the environment, but when activated, the cat is partially hidden behind furniture or other real objects.

In addition, Google has partnered with Houzz to integrate this depth API into its home design app. From today, Houzz users will be able to see how it works by using the "Show in My Room 3D" feature. Instead of just putting furniture in the room, the new occlusion option gives you a more realistic look at the look of furniture in a room. For example, you might see a chair behind the table instead of floating on it.

In a demo at Google's San Francisco office, I saw how developers could use the new ARCore Depth API Create a depth map with a standard smartphone camera. Red indicates closer areas, while blue represents more distant areas. In addition to the occlusion, Google states that developers with this deep understanding of the world can also play with real physics, surface interaction, and more.

An example I tried that when I threw virtual objects in a real living room setup. The digital objects respected the curvature and angles of the furniture, accumulated in a narrow cavity or spread throughout a wider, flatter space. Virtual robots climbed over real chairs and virtual snow fell on every single leaf of a real plant. A particularly entertaining demo was playing a virtual food fight where I could use real furniture as a barricade.

According to Google, this is all possible with over 200 Android devices that are already ARCore-compatible. No special sensors or devices are needed, though adding new sensors will probably make the technology even more realistic in the future.

Apart from Google Search and the new Houzz app, ARCore's deep API is not implemented in any other consumer applications. If developers want to try this out in their own projects, they must complete this form to apply.

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