2017 Kick-Off with daydreaming of tango

No time to lose! 2017 is kicking off with the first AR news pretty quickly. Well, okay, this was expected. Every year people get the new announcements on electronics just after Christmas so that everybody turns disappointed with the newly bought gadgets in 2016. Well, in Spain people would still have time to shop before Reyes on January, 6th, but of course the new announcements don´t appear in the shops directly.

During the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas we get cool new gadgets presented every year, right after it started (and we are still practically saturated by new toys or the Christmas duck). This time, the AR start was done by Asus showing off their (rumoured and expected) Zenfone AR. Some specs leaked before, but now we know for sure that it actually exists, how it looks and what it is capable of!

If you did not live behind a rock you will know about Google´s Project Tango and the Lenovo Phab 2 Pro, that was presented recently. The device was the first consumer device implementing Google´s AR technology that uses (among other sensors) a wide angle RGB camera (for SLAM tracking) plus IR depth camera data to get depth data from the world. While typical smartphone AR demos don´t know much about the real world, this approach that is similar to Microsoft´s Hololens implementation, let´s us integrate virtual objects way better than before! We have stable inside-out tracking for a phone, can do collisions and occlusions for the AR objects and can thus integrate the imaginary friends objects more convincingly.

The first phone supporting the full mixed reality continuum

While the Phab 2 Pro seemed more like another dev kit being impractical in size and battery heating, the Asus version get´s better (so it seems). The specs promise a high-end smartphone that fits into your pocket (maybe even your hand). But the most important fusion: it supports not only Tango, but also Google´s Daydream VR specification. It is the first phone to support Daydream VR alongside Tango! This turns it into the first phone, supporting Google´s implementations of AR and VR at the same time. (Obviously other phones like the Galaxy S6 support VR and could do “classic” RGB-camera based AR, too.) This new to-be release could be a big step into mixed reality integration into our lives. Most probably more and more Android (high-end) phones will support both systems and make the additional sensors a commodity like GPS until now. While we wait for all the cool glasses – maybe the roll-out of AR into everyday life will after all still happen through the brick in our hand – allowing for an easy transition!

Ah, you are a spec-lover? So, as said, the Asus Zenfone AR brings Tango and Daydream VR united in one smaller box. It has a 5,7″ screen with 2.560 x 1.440 px and huge 8 GB RAM. It uses the (not the brand new one) Snapdragon 821 chip and ships a back-facing camera with 23 Megapixel and all the typical other sensors needed for Tango, Daydream and a high-end phone. It runs Android 7.0 and is supposed to ship… only in the 2nd half of 2017. No price given. Darn!

But let´s wait and see who joins the circle next and what will happen next days during CES and during Mobile World Congress end of February. I´m sure the Zenfone won´t stay alone for long!

Happy new year! … and enjoy Johnny Lee and the other folks if you have the time: