Your favorite AR apps might soon be a lot more realistic thanks to a big update from Google

Google Camera Arcore Pixel Playground
Google Camera Arcore Pixel Playground (Image credit: Nick Sutrich / Android Central)

What you need to know

  • Google is opening up the new occlusion ARCore update to all developers.
  • This update has been available to select developers since December and can be seen in favorite apps like Snapchat and Five Nights at Freddies.
  • The occlusion update helps your phone understand depth of real-world objects, helping make AR more realistic.

The promise of augmented reality (AR) is to blend the virtual with the physical in a way that's essentially imperceptible to the viewer. Whether we're talking about a device dedicated to AR, like Google Glass, or just running Snapchat filters on your phone, the effectiveness of AR depends on how well it can blend the two realities together. Thanks to a huge new update to Google's ARCore, the technology found on Android phones that helps developers create magic experiences, your AR experiences are about to get significantly more realistic.

Arcore Occlusion 2020 Example

Source: Google (Image credit: Source: Google)

Occlusion is the name of the game in the latest ARCore update, and it's now available for all developers to use. Simply put, occlusion means that your phone will now be able to understand the depth of real-world objects, even if you only have one camera, and hide virtual objects behind them when it makes sense. A couple examples from Google include games where you might have to shoot at virtual robots and can take cover behind walls or other objects to avoid their fire, or a game where you line up dominoes on real surfaces and then knock them down in succession.

Impressively enough, Google is even able to calculate physics and other advanced properties, allowing virtual objects to interact with real spaces in surprising ways. An example of this is a game where you throw virtual shapes down a real flight of stairs and can watch these objects hitting every step on the way down, even bumping into one another along the way. This advanced occlusion isn't actually new, as Google unveiled it last December, but it was previously only open to a handful of developers that were testing and improving the platform. Now that Google is confident of its capabilities, all ARCore developers can now utilize this brand new update.

Best Android games of 2020

If you're looking for something to show off immediately, check out Snapchat's new Android-exclusive underwater world filter, which turns the space around you into a virtual aquarium complete with fish that'll swim in and around real-world objects as your phone discovers the depth of all the objects it sees. Aside from this, we expect to see several updates over the coming months for popular AR titles, maybe even including enhancements to games like Pokemon Go, where characters and virtual elements alike can hide behind objects or just provide better context for virtual interaction.

Check out the video below for even more fantastic examples, like TeamViewer's new Pilot app, which can allow the support person on the other end of the call to draw on your screen in actual 3D space, or for developers of games like Five Nights at Freddy's to utilize actual real-world surfaces to provide better jump scares.

Nicholas Sutrich
Senior Content Producer — Smartphones & VR
Nick started with DOS and NES and uses those fond memories of floppy disks and cartridges to fuel his opinions on modern tech. Whether it's VR, smart home gadgets, or something else that beeps and boops, he's been writing about it since 2011. Reach him on Twitter or Instagram @Gwanatu