While the jury is still out on virtual reality, Google and Apple are still moving ahead with augmented reality (AR), which puts virtual objects in the viewfinder of your mobile device's camera (think Pokémon GO). Google has now released Measure, a free Android app that will tell you the dimensions of an object in front of you, though the app is currently limited to a small number of higher-end Android device -- the ones with AR Core support.
Both Android and iOS offer boatloads of conventional ruler apps, but their scales are limited to the size of your screen. Being able to just look at an object in your phone's viewfinder and see the measurement numbers pop up lets you quantify much larger shapes, and it takes much less time. So if you need to ship something, but you don't know how large of a box you need, AR rulers are clutch. Or maybe you're shopping for a refrigerator or kitchen sink, and you want to make sure that it will actually fit -- through the front door.
Does iOS get something like this?
At WWDC 2018, Apple announced its own AR ruler coming in iOS 12 this fall, also called Measure. And it will be compatible with all devices that can run iOS 12. Which ones are those? All iOS devices that can run iOS 11, a list that goes all the way back to the iPhone 5S released in September 2013. The oldest AR Core phone Google supports is the Nexus 5X, which came out two years later.
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Measure is not the first AR ruler for Android or iOS. For example, Android already has ARuler, Prime Ruler, and AirMeasure, all of which use Google's AR Core tech under the hood. Two of these three are ad-supported. Will people still put up with ads in an app when Google itself is offering the same functions without ads? It seems unlikely.
iOS has its own batch of AR measurement apps as well (such as iOS versions of ARuler and AirMeasure), running an older version of Apple's AR Kit, which is their version of AR Core. So while Apple's app will at least be a showcase for the upcoming AR Kit 2, it's not clear where Google expects to position its own Measure against the ones that it invited developers to make.
- Measure is not the first AR ruler for Android, but it's ad-free and comes from Google itself.
- iOS users don't get a Measure app from Google, but there are several to choose from already, and Apple is bringing its own AR ruler app to iOS 12 this fall.
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