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Google launches persistent Cloud Anchors for creating AR layers over the real world

Google last year previewed persistent Cloud Anchors that can be tied to a specific location and lets information be permanently overlaid over the real world. With ARCore 1.20, it’s officially launching with a number of apps already taking advantage. Meanwhile, Google today showed off Earth Cloud Anchors.

Cloud Anchors were first announced at I/O 2018 as a way to build collaborative AR apps. They work by having devices create a 3D feature map from visual data and letting other users access. These experiences were previously only good for a single session and disappeared after you closed the app/game.

As the name suggests, persistent Cloud Anchors last longer by being tied to a latitude and longitude that developers maintain.

Persistent Cloud Anchors connect real world locations with digital AR content that anyone can access from compatible mobile devices. These AR experiences can be shared by multiple people at once and returned to again and again, even weeks or months later.

The feature is now widely available to Android, iOS, and Unity mobile developers with ARCore 1.20. Several apps already support persistent Cloud Anchors, including:

  • SJ Labs: “Help passengers find their way at Central Station in Stockholm, making it easier and faster for them to make their train departures.”
  • MARK: “Lets people leave AR messages in real-world locations for friends, family and their community to discover.”
  • Changdeok ARirang: allows “visitors at Changdeokgung Palace in South Korea are guided by the legendary Haechi to relevant locations where they can experience historical and cultural high fidelity AR content.”

Meanwhile, Google is already working to make this functionality more discoverable. Earth Cloud Anchors will leverage the global localization technology that powers Live View directions in Google Maps to “guide users to AR content.”

Some AR experiences — be it historical recreations or games — are tied to physical locations. Earth Cloud Anchors will give users step-by-step directions on where to walk in order to access. In one demo, Google shows developers being able to customize the arrow guiding users:

Instead of pushing users to an outside mapping tool, AR apps can offer an end-to-end solution that’s immersive and doesn’t break the reality of a game. This capability is still in early access, but developers can apply to test.

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Avatar for Abner Li Abner Li

Editor-in-chief. Interested in the minutiae of Google and Alphabet. Tips/talk: