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The Pixel's AR Stickers are the most fun you can have with a camera

Alongside the update to Android 8.1, Google slipped in a feature originally shown off at the Pixel 2 launch event. AR Stickers, the camera mode which allows you to drop augmented reality objects into your photos, has arrived! What originally sounded like a silly gimmick now has me looking for excuses to toss in a couple of fun extras into whatever photo I am about to take. I find myself reaching to use it in situations where I wouldn't normally take a photo, after only a couple of days having it on my phone.

Here's a quick look at how it works, and how I'm using it!

Quick to launch, easy to use

AR Stickers aren't a separate camera app on your Pixel. Instead, it lives right inside the Google Camera app. You access it just like you would Portrait Mode, by tapping the Menu button on the side of the camera and selecting AR Stickers as an option. Once you're in this camera mode, you'll see the standard video and photo button options underneath a host of augmented reality characters for you to drop into your shot.

Adding an AR Sticker to your shot is easy. You swipe through the options, drag the option you want into the shot, and once you release your finger that character springs to life. Once a character is placed, you can move it around and adjust the size as you see fit. This allows you to create tiny scenes on a table in front of you or life-sized scenes on the street next to you with ease, but the real magic happens as you move around the scene you've created.

porgs

Google's AR Core tech makes it possible to position an AR Sticker and move around it as though it was really there. Get closer, and it feels closer. Walk around it, and you can see every angle. Best of all, as you move around the characters you've placed the lighting and shadows around them will change to look and feel more realistic.

For all of this to work, AR Core has a couple of cues for different environments. In ideal lighting situations, you will briefly see an array of white dots on the surfaces AR Core can detect when the camera opens. If the lighting is questionable or the surfaces in the shot aren't idea, the camera will prompt you to slowly move the camera in a circle in front of you. This gives the camera a little more information to create the depth map needed for AR Stickers to feel real in the shot. You can still place AR Stickers if this depth map hasn't been created, but there's a huge difference in realism if you take a moment to set the shot up correctly.

Porgs and sleepy coffee cups and balloons!

Google promised a healthy selection of AR Stickers at launch, and as long as you're a fan of Stranger Things and Star Wars you'll agree that promise has been kept. We've seen the shot from the Pixel 2 launch where Eleven sends the Demogorgon back to the Upside Down, but that Sticker pack has a lot more to offer with most of the popular characters from the first season. To get in on hype for The Last Jedi, there's also a Sticker pack with everyone's favorite droids alongside Porgs and some of the more action-oriented fighting vehicles. Google's intention here is to keep this section fresh with lots of pop culture Sticker packs, which means it probably won't be too long before we see Game of Thrones and Avengers joining this set up.

But there's more than just the latest characters from that new movie. Google's own creation, dubbed Foodmoji, offer some emotional food and drink to help tell whatever story you're trying to tell. My personal favorite is the sleepy coffee cup, but most of these characters do a great job putting a smile on your face as you enhance your photo or video. You'll also find a series of balloons you can use to spell out basically anything. This gives you a little more direct control to say something in a photo, and each balloon set gives you the ability to change the colors and adjust the height as you place the Sticker. Finally, a set of generally silly Stickers, like a roller skate with wings and a pile of cash, exists to give you something for as many occasions as possible.

Go forth and Sticker everything

Overall, AR Stickers are a success. Google delivered a healthy selection, promises to offer more, and the stickers themselves are a lot of fun to use in both photos and video. When compared to standalone augmented reality sticker apps like Bemo on iOS, it's clear Google's AR Stickers not only significantly more capable but generally more fun to use.

The only thing I feel this experience is missing right now is the ability to use the front camera for photos and video. A shot of the Demogorgon screeching over my shoulder, or a Porg sitting on my head, would be amazing but technically very difficult. Google's made no promises to use the front camera in the future, but it'd be nice to have if there's a way to make it work without sacrificing quality.

Of course, there's one other general downside to AR Stickers: if you don't own a Pixel or Pixel 2, you don't get them. This camera update will be rolling out with Android 8.1, but it's going to be a Pixel exclusive and there's currently no plans to change that. The good news, at least for Pixel fans, is this feature is absolutely good enough for Google to keep making it better all the time.

Russell is a Contributing Editor at Android Central. He's a former server admin who has been using Android since the HTC G1, and quite literally wrote the book on Android tablets. You can usually find him chasing the next tech trend, much to the pain of his wallet. Find him on Facebook and Twitter

60 Comments
  • There is an ARCore and AR Stickers App update you need to download before this works.
  • Is this a third party app?
  • No, official Google ones.
  • Can you share the link? Can't find them in the Play Store.
  • You won't find them on the Play Store from an Android device unless that device is compatible (any Pixel phone running 8.1). You can find them on the web version of the store, but they'll only install on a compatible device.
  • They auto-downloaded for me.
  • Thanks 1000 times. I got my 8.1 update last night on my 2 XL. After the download the AR sticker did not show up in the camera app. However I saw several new apps in the updates available update list, including AR Stickers. I updated the AR Sticker app, but it still did not show up in the camera app. So I got tired and went to bed. I looked at the camera app this morning, still could not get AR Stickers to work. After reading your post, I went back and found AC Core and downloaded it. Now AR Stickers work on the camera app.
    I'm at work, but can't wait to get home to play with this. Thanks
  • I don't see the option
  • Make sure both apps (ARCore and AR Stickers App) updated in the play store. I rebooted my phone and the AR sticker was in the settings next to portraits. It took a reboot to work.
  • Ok. I see it now after the play store update
  • Very cute, I will check it more after work
    My phone updated an hour ago.
    They just show up.
  • Yeah thats all I saw was an update in the Play store. I got mine about an hour ago
  • They are pretty cool.... Just one disappointment.... When I place a character and move the camera around, it doesn't take into account of objects that may move in front of the character. It overlays them on top of it instead of placing the character behind it.... I guess them are the breaks...
  • Same thing happens on iPhone X.
  • Was not aware I would have access to this with my OG XL, very nice little surprise on this Monday.
  • These are so awesome! Tried a few and they work great!
  • One day my Pixel 2XL will update to 8.1. WHEN THOUGH WHEEEEENNNNN
  • Have you looked into the Beta program?
  • That actually slowed down the receipt of the final version for most people. They had access later than the people who weren't on it.
  • Have you looked into the Android Beta program?
  • Same. Waiting on my update as well. =(
  • If you're really inpatient, take the SIM out and go down the deleting Google Services Framework data and cache route then restart. Does have a habit of mucking up your notifications though.
  • Yeah, that's WAY too destructive. If you're impatient enough to be that destructive, just sideload the OTA. Nearly as easy, and way less problematic.
  • You could just side load the OTA. I got tired of waiting for the update so I did it that way. Super easy. Don't even have to unlock the bootloader.
  • Is anyone sure that this works on the Beta?
  • Works just fine on the Beta
  • I am enrolled, in the beta but am on the final ....it works fine.👍
  • This is so cool I saw Google show this at I/O and was wondering what happened to this camera mode I love how the characters actually interact with each other.
  • I had to reboot after installing the 2 apps, so if doesn't show up in the camera swipe menu , try rebooting... I like how they turn to follow the camera. I don't know if they can tell food , but the demagorgon ate off our dinner plates.
  • Thanks for the info. These things are amazing!
  • Works pretty cool on my Pixel XL (1st gen). just woke up this morning and saw it in the camera app
  • I don't know what the hell a porg is, but I now approve of Google's AR stickers.
  • Does it work on Pixel 1 with 8.0? Still waiting for the update.
  • Works on the original Pixel and Pixel XL on 8.1. Won't work on 8.0.
  • My kid and I littered the living room with farting pizzas. It's pretty amazing.
  • If Google keeps this exclusive to the Pixel Samsung or someone will come along and make a more popular version.
  • THat's what Google does. They come up with good ideas that they lock down and make proprietary to their lackluster hardware, then someone else comes along and refines the concept and opens it up for mass consumption.
  • No... Google does not come up with good ideas. They build on the ideas of others and usually come up with something shiny that may thrill for a couple of months but becomes lackluster due to lack of follow-up. When they do follow up in their own sweet Google time, the masses have usually lost interest.
  • The Sony Xperia has had these for some time. ISTR the spiderman tie-in was quite amusing.
    I have several (british) forest walks with dinosaurs and pixies overlayed!
    woked on video too I think.
  • Looks really cool and I wish I had them. Sucks that they are proprietary.
  • @Russell Holly A few things that might be worth noting in the article (based on my experience with a stock Pixel 2 XL updated to 8.1 with AR: 1. Photo resolution is fixed at 2MP (1920x1080). It still looks good - and in fact running at much higher resolution would likely demonstrate too high a contrast between the stickers and live material - but is worth noting.
    2. HDR is not operational when using AR stickers. This really shows in low-light (though the system does do a good job of adapting the stickers to appear properly dimmed as well.
    3. The AR system defaults to video regardless of whether you launch it from the still- or video-camera setting. Hopefully Google will address this to have it launch in the active profile. As to it being/remaining Pixel exclusive, I suspect it may rely heavily on the Pixel Visual Core, which, if correct, would limit it to them by virtue of hardware capability rather than simply being at Google's whim. I hope that it is actually possible to deliver this to other devices as, if so, we would likely see some third party developers producing a much wider array of available sticker packs than Google is likely to offer on its own.
  • They work on the original Pixels, so the Pixel Visual Core isn't a requirement.
  • Good to know - thanks. Maybe down the road they'll open it up on the Play Store to a wider range.
  • How do you get it on the original Pixel? I'm currently running the OTA 8.1 update (it was sideloaded, but it's still the stock OTA update). I put it on last night since it seemed to be taking forever for the update to roll out to me (even after joining the beta program, I still wasn't receiving any updates). I don't see the AR Sticker option in the camera.
  • After the 8.1 update, Google Play should download two apps automatically at some point - AR Stickers and ARCore. After those have been installed, you should see AR Stickers as an option in the slide out menu in the camera app (if you're on the latest version of the camera app).
  • Another thing worth noticing: they are super cool to play around with, but they kill your battery.
  • Okay, so after an update, these stickers work! Probably not gonna radically change the trajectory of my life, or save the world, or smooth over tensions between the Democrats and Republicans or between us and North Korea. But they are fun, and are a very welcome addition to this already amazing phone! I'm happy to have them!
  • Are you really expecting anything phone related to do any of that, though?
  • That's very cool. I probably would never use it, but I know people who would.
  • Could anything regarding phone use be more trivial?
  • Yes. New icons and emojis.
  • It's to showcase the technology, not to be groundbreaking itself. They're saying "Look what you can add to your apps".
  • This is like animojis on the iPhone X. They are cool to use for a few days and then after that you are sick of them and never use them again. "Oh, an AT-AT walker on a football field? So realistic! lols"
  • This isn't new though.. we all have snapchat and FX Guru and have had AR objects in our pictures and videos for quite some time.
  • uhm no it's nothing like snapchat. These are VR animated objects that come to life and interact with you.
  • What do they do? How do they interact?
  • Cool on the video side! NOT COOL when taking pictures with these stickers. The image quality is horrible with pictures. Thumbs down on this one for photos.
  • Completely useless garbage cluttering up our vital tools!
    Getting tired of this crap. I wish Google would just focus on making Oreo work properly!
  • Pointless until it moves from a couple of obscure devices and to the rest of the Android ecosystem. Equivalent to Apple releasing a feature for the iPhone 8 Plus, but only if you own the gold version... in 256GB.... on Verizon. By the time it releases on mainstream Android devices we'll we talking about something new and different.
  • Googles answer to talking poop.