Google’s Experiment With Web-Based Augmented Reality

Google reveals new prototype that lets you share interactive augmented reality assets online.

Reza Ali and Josh Carpenter work on Google’s Daydream WebXR team—a group working to integrate more virtual and augmented reality elements into everyday web browsing. Their latest breakthrough is called Article.

According to a blog post published by Ali and Carpenter earlier this week:

Article is a 3D model viewer that works for all browsers. On desktop, users can check out a 3D model…by dragging to rotate, or scrolling to zoom. On mobile the experience is similar: users touch and drag to rotate the model, or drag with two fingers to zoom in.

In essence, Article wants to make sharing AR models as simple and addictive as posting GIFs and JPEGs. It places complicated 3D designs into a “magic window” of sorts that enables and encourages interactivity. Article assets will tilt subtly as you scroll, inviting you to tap and swipe to your hearts content.

The desktop model viewing experience.

But the fun doesn’t stop there. If your Android phone is capable of running Google’s ARCore software, a new button will appear in the article window—pressing it launches ARCore. And just like that, the model you were rotating with your finger is now rendered into your actual environment.

Article’s AR interface as viewed on an AR-capable tablet.

Google knows that we’re still living in an age where most AR moments are happening through the magic mirror of a smartphone. That’s why Article is being positioned as an artery to connect a typical online discovery to an actual AR experience.

Moving and rotating the model.

If this new prototype can get readers stumbling across a new interactive asset, firing it up in ARCore, having a good time and then sharing it easily with their friends, then that would be a huge win for Google’s dream of creating a more augmented society.

Ali and Carpenter allude to exactly this in their blog’s final paragraph:

There’s vast potential for AR on the web—it could be used in shopping, education, entertainment, and more. Article is just one in a series of prototypes, and there’s so much left to explore—from using light estimation to more seamlessly blend 3D objects with the real world, to adding diegetic UI annotations to specific positions on the model. Mobile AR on the web is incredibly fun right now because there’s a lot to be discovered.

Like most Google prototypes, Article should be taken with a grain of salt. It may get updated, improved and widely released. It may be shuttered completely. Or it may disappear for a few years and then reemerge with a new name and new features.

The important bit of this experiment is that it shows just how seriously Google is taking its mission to make immersive technology a part of our everyday online experiences.

Image Credits: Alphabet, Inc. 

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