After a few years of ups and downs with VR and AR, Google has achieved some notable wins, most recently with the Childish Gambino dance off. Naturally, they're not stopping there, and the latest update to the Playground app (formerly AR Stickers) shows some of what's in store. There will be integration to allow for furniture viewing and shopping, an informative life-sized collection of animals, and a special celebration for International Women's Day.
The features discussed below are probably not live yet, or may only be live for a small percentage of users. Unless stated otherwise, don't expect to see these features if you install the apk. All screenshots and images are real unless otherwise stated, and images are only altered to remove personal information.
If you need a reminder that the future is now, just consider that it's now possible to use your phone to see how a piece of furniture will look inside your house. There are already a number of AR apps that allow you to do this from the likes of IKEA and others, but you have to seek them out and they don't all offer the same features. Judging by some new text, Google will be turning some of those capabilities into standardized features with the use of AR Core.
AR Shopping is still focused on furniture, and the behavior works basically just like AR Stickers: Pick an item from a catalog, drag it around your room to position and rotate as necessary, then take pictures or move around to get a view from different angles. Some (or possibly all) products are already locked to specific dimensions so they will be "true-to-life" when they are dropped in from the catalog.
One interesting touch is that there also appears to be a recovery feature that will restore item(s) previously placed in the room. This could be part of a feature for saving layouts, or possibly just to recover from losing its bearings, like when you turn your phone off and back on again.
<string name="shopping_app_name">AR Shopping</string>
<string name="shopping_recovery_snackbar">Restoring furniture. Point your phone where you last placed the item.</string>
<string name="tap_to_place_shopping_hint">Tap to place item</string>
<string name="rotation_onboarding_shopping_hint">To rotate, use two fingers and move clockwise or counter-clockwise</string>
<string name="scale_onboarding_shopping_hint">This piece is true-to-life, no need to resize. To adjust placement, move it.</string>
<string name="welcome_dialog_google_ar_furniture_text">Preview furniture in your space</string>
<string name="welcome_dialog_use_camera">The perfect piece awaits. See which items fit or match your room. Plus, take photos & share them.\10\10To start, give access to your camera and photos.</string>
<string name="welcome_dialog_get_started">Give access</string><string name="product_details">Details</string>
<string name="product_list_heading">Browse %1$s</string>
<string name="product_price">Price</string><string name="lifesize_scale_text">Life-size</string>
<string name="horizontal_translation_onboarding_shopping_hint">Drag to move</string>
<string name="choose_initial_furniture_hint">Choose an item to place in your room</string>
<string name="shopping_service_general_failure_snackbar">Connection lost. Check it and try again.</string>
Overall, the features sound pretty straightforward, but there's one question that jumps out at me: Where is Google sourcing the products and their models?
The product listings include a title, merchant, price, and a section for other additional details. This at least tells me that AR Shopping will be a hub of some kind. One possible explanation would be that third-party apps will hook into AR Shopping as an API. For example, you might download apps from IKEA and Sears, then their catalog will be accessible through Playgrounds itself. Products from both manufacturers will appear in the list. Alternatively, Playgrounds might be a jumping off point for opening each merchant's catalogs.
Another possibility, and the one I personally consider to be the most logical, is that AR Shopping will become a new arm of Google Shopping. If that name doesn't mean anything to you, try going to a Google search page and type in something like "shoes." If it isn't chosen for you automatically, change the search category to Shopping. You'll now see a list of products with names, merchants, prices, and so on. If you buy a product through this portal, Google generally gets paid for the referral. Naturally, if AR Shopping becomes popular enough, vendors will have an incentive to build models of their products.
International Women's Day
In celebration for International Women's Day, coming up on March 8, Google is preparing to feature the "Hero Her" with a series of special effects related to female superheroes.
There aren't too many specifics to speak of, but the combination a new layout called comicbook_browser.xml and a line that ends with "© Marvel All Rights Reserved" are pretty good indications that this event will borrow from Marvel's collection of female superheroes that can be used to create scenes. There are also three headlines that seem to be intended for making comic book style panels or covers: "The fearless," "The rise of," and "The empowering."
<string name="iwd_gallery_title">Hero Her</string>
<string name="iwd_gallery_title_alt1">International Women's Day</string>
<string name="iwd_banner_button_talk_back_string">Start special effects for International Women's Day</string>
<string name="iwd_banner_button_text">Try it now!</string>
<string name="iwd_banner_button_text_alt1">Do it now!</string>
<string name="iwd_banner_button_text_alt2">Get started</string>
<string name="iwd_banner_button_cancel_text">No thanks</string><string name="iwd_fx_button_talk_back_string">Launch superhero effect named %1$s</string>
<string name="iwd_fx_name_one">The fearless</string>
<string name="iwd_fx_name_two">The rise of</string>
<string name="iwd_fx_name_three">The empowering</string>
<string name="iwd_initial_name_text">Name here</string>
<string name="iwd_info_dialog_text">Give a hero in your life the ultimate superhero treatment for International Women's Day.\10\10© Marvel All Rights Reserved.</string>New layout:
AR Answers and AR Animals
Playgrounds is going to venture down the road of reality-based models with a new set called AR Animals. There's not a lot of text to go on, but the description basically describes naturally-sized models of animals found in nature. They can be resized, but there will be some method to restore them to their life-sized scale. This could prove to be a cool way to give semi-educational context to real creatures in our world.
<string name="handoff_body">Use your camera to bring life-size animals into your space</string>
<string name="accessibility_scale_button">Reset the animal\'s scale back to life-size</string>
This isn't quite the end of the story, there's a second name appearing: AR Answers. The text doesn't really give any meaningful information about what AR Answers will be, but one line mentions loading animal models, which confirms there's at least some connection. I don't want to make too many guesses about AR Answers, but my suspicion is that it's going to be the top-level feature that contains informational packs like AR Animals, and expands to include others in the future — may I suggest dinosaurs.
<string name="answers_service_general_failure_title">Couldn\'t load related animals. Check your connection and try again.</string>New layouts: