What's the difference between Tango and ARCore?

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The ASUS ZenFone AR produces incredible augmented reality experiences thanks to the Tango engine. It seamlessly marries hardware and software to create an unprecedented level of spatial awareness. Recently Google announced ARCore, which brings augmented reality experiences to other phones.

The ZenFone AR leverages Tango to its fullest thanks to dedicated cameras for motion-tracking and depth sensing. Additionally, the high-resolution primary camera captures a clean, detailed image of the world around you for digital objects to live within. One of the few ARCore devices, the Samsung Galaxy S8, sports only the single camera on the rear, and the usual complement of motion sensors. Those are fine for day-to-day use, but without additional supporting hardware, augmented reality experiences on it won’t be as good as they could be.

We’re going to run through some of the differences between these ARCore and Tango, and why you might want to use one over the other.

Depth-sensing

ZenFone AR depth sensing

On the software side, ARCore is inextricably linked to Tango. Much of the motion and object recognition of ARCore is taken straight from Tango. The primary difference is that Tango leverages customized depth sensors to directly measure distance to objects and in turn builds digital models. By comparison, ARCore builds these spaces through estimation of the live camera feed. As you can imagine, this results in greater inaccuracy, though makes augmented reality experiences more accessible to devices without specialized hardware.

For example, ARCore currently performs best when you’re dealing with very simple terrain, such as the flat surface of a table. Devices like the ZenFone AR are advanced enough to build more complex 3D environments, detecting curves, ridges, and peaks in your environment.

Motion tracking

ZenFone AR motion tracking

One area where Tango devices and ARCore devices are on closer footing is movement tracking. The vast majority of smartphones have an accelerometer which can be used to tell when and how you tilt them. While this can be used to figure out which direction you’re moving in, devices like the ZenFone AR are specifically built to detect your detailed movement, including rising or dropping elevation. That means with Tango, you can go up and down stairwells and accurately build a 3D environment, while ARCore can’t.

Area learning

For augmented reality to work well, devices have to be able to remember where virtual objects stay within the space, even when you’re not looking at them. This way if a virtual ball rolls under a table, you can circle around and still find it at a logical spot. ARCore does this by defining feature points and planes, then anchoring virtual objects to those features.

ZenFone ARTango recognizes these features and builds 3D environments in the same way, but thanks to its additional sensors, it can do so more accurately and more quickly. In bland environments with few landmarks, relying only on a camera feed can be challenging, producing poor augmented reality results. When the ZenFone AR is learning an area via infrared array and thousands of data points, it can correct existing 3D models based on a greater data set and ultimately reproduce environments better than an everyday smartphone.

Fundamentally, if you’re looking for a smooth, fast, and accurate augmented reality experience, Tango and the ZenFone AR will always fare better than a purely software-based solution. As it stands, ARCore is still in early preview, and we’re eager to see how the platform and its app ecosystem matures, but for those looking for the very best, learn more about the ZenFone AR with Tango here.