The End of Project Tango and The Rise of Google ARCore

Updated on 2017-12-18 by Tejas Upmanyu

Google ARCORE Cover Image

Rest In Peace Tango. Tango Down!

While ARKit and ARCore are taking the world by storm, Google’s Initial dream of bringing Augmented Reality in Smartphones — Google Tango is down, given ARCore is up and functioning. Google came forward today to announce that Project Tango, high-end hardware based Augmented Reality platform, is shutting down. It was almost confirmed, back in August when Google admittedly went software, Instead of hardware with Augmented Reality and launched ARCore as a reply to Apple’s ARKit, now Google has released an official timeline for Tango bidding farewell. As of today, Google announced that It will cease all support for Project Tango on March 1, 2018.

Google tango farewell augmented reality tweet

The California Internet giant took it to Twitter to announce the demise of Tango -

We’re turning down support for Tango on March 1, 2018. Thank you to our incredible community of developers who made such progress with Tango over the last three years. We look forward to continuing the journey with you on ARCore.

The Beginnings: Google Tango Pioneering Smartphone AR

Google kickstarted Project Tango back in 2014 and was a pioneer in Augmented Reality on smartphones. Tango went all guns blazing before Apple’s ARKit was conceived as the latest and the greatest Augmented Reality platform on smartphones and tablets. Project Tango was based on high-end hardware and specialised camera systems incorporated into heavily priced smartphones. Google’s approach as it comes as a surprise to many was heavily hardware dependent and no software magic as is usually seen with Google. Tango relied on advanced camera organisation for position tracking and creating a mesh of objects around similar to Microsoft’s HoloLens.

Google Tango Lenovo Phab 2 augmented reality

Google Tango on the Lenovo Phab 2 Pro. Credits: CNET

Albeit quite a few, Tango enabled devices packed almost an Xbox Kinectan IR projector, a time-of-flight camera, and a fisheye motion camera, all along at the back of a smartphone. This advanced hardware mojo allowed some handful AR based applications for the platform. In all its entirety, Google Tango as good as it was, didn’t really go anywhere along. Asking smartphone manufacturers to go out of their way and cram this super specialised hardware into smartphones didn’t really pan out for Google and turned out to be a complete failure for Google, much like Google Glasses, brilliant vision but poor execution. Google Tango got almost no attention and was only able to reach a few gimmicky devices for all Its 3 years in existence. 

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After all that hardware power, allegedly Tango was never that great to justify the extra set of requirements It posed. Tracking was not on point, constant drifting and apps like “Matterport Scenes”  were great until the poor tracking and lack of detail just destroyed the experience. Even with all that hardware prowess, Tango was not good with performance either as these simple handful apps were enough to crash the system after a few minutes of use. The first Tango enabled device was Lenovo Phab 2 Pro, which was egregiously expensive, came in a big, ugly form factor and given Tango’s performance, battery life was no good either. The second chance lied with Asus ZenFone AR, which also went in history as the last Tango device ever, the hardware did improve with Zenfone AR but Tango as always wasn’t able to live up to its expectations of a Google product. 

Google Augmented Reality Tango first device

The First Tango enabled device, Lenovo Phab 2 Pro. Credits: ArsTechnica


The Flip Side: Doing AR with Software, Better!

While Google was busy with Tango, Apple played big on Augmented Reality and figured out ways to make AR popular and mainstream with software magic enabling commodity hardware to get AR features. ARKit was a nightmare for Tango and proved to be the reason for Its death too.

Google Software Augmented Reality ARCore

This was totally unexpected of Apple to pull off something so software-focused on existing devices with literally no additional requirements besides the iOS 11 upgrade.  Google seemed to have been forced to wake up and craft a reply to ARKit and hence Google’s latest Augmented Reality platform ARCore was born, which is very similar to ARKit and runs on existing hardware with no additional requirements but is still only available on just the Pixel series and Samsung’s Galaxy S8. Google is working hard to make smartphone from other manufacturers such as LG, Asus and more to get their users on the AR journey with ARCore.


A New Vision For Smartphone AR: Google ARCore

ARCore is the future of Smartphone based Augmented Reality features as of now and appears to be more polished and performant than Tango. Project Tango was no more than a failed experiment but made Google and a lot of others in the industry to understand a few things about AR and Its execution. ARCore almost similar to ARKit simplifies things a lot and is all software prowess by Google. It employs simple plane-detection rather than creating a 3D mesh-like Project Tango. ARCore thus enables a lot of existing devices to get Augmented Reality experiences without any super-powered IR and camera subsystems.

“Our goal with Tango was really to prove out the core technology and show the world that it’s possible,” Google AR/VR boss Clay Bavor told TechCrunch in August. “Obviously others have started to invest in smartphone AR, our goal with Tango has always been to drive that capability into as many devices as possible.”

Google has publicly stated Its intent with ARCore. Google’s vision of Augmented Reality is now driven by ARCore and getting most of the Android devices to get ARCore sooner than later, though distribution has always been the single greatest drawback of the Android platform, we don’t see anything different happening with ARCore as of now. Google just released the second developer preview of ARCore with lots of fun features such as stickers and Rejoice Android buffs, AR is coming!


Concluding Remarks: ARCore

Since the announcement of ARCore, It was just a formality for Google to bid farewell to Tango. Google made it official today and pulled the plug on one of Its could-be-breakthroughs but turned out failure projects. With no additional requirements of any sort, ARCore is attracting a lot of customers and developers alike. Already the platform seems to have more users than Tango had in Its entire lifetime. 

Google Software Augmented Reality ARCore Pixel Smartphone

Google ARCore on a Pixel Smartphone. Credits: MacRumours

Rest In Peace Tango, you will always be remembered as the first vision for smartphone-based Augmented Reality. For all, you who are about to mourn this great hero, Don’t. Tango still lives, not exactly in our hearts but at the heart of Google’s ARCore SDK, which has been named surprisingly “Tango” in honour of this fallen pioneer.  The hardware-based tech still lives in many of Google’s products, a major one being "WorldSense," a tracking technology Google is building for VR headsets. 


So, what are your feelings about Project Tango and the vision of AR, Google is onto? 

What is your view is better Tango or ARCore and Why? Do share your thoughts on this plug-pulling by Google with us. Do give us a shoutout on Facebook and make sure to follow us on Twitter for similar and quality technical articles, We are now on Instagram and Medium as well. Do check us out for some great content there and be sure to follow. Till then, have a great time people! Remember, It took 3D to Tango 😄

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