Google I/O 2017: What Google is Planning for VR & AR

After focusing largely on the many features and services that will be coming to Google’s ecosystem in 2017, Google has held a second keynote at I/O 2017 that focuses solely on two subjects: virtual reality and augmented reality.

For this I/O 2017 keynote, Google has expanded upon where both Daydream and Tango will be heading in the near future, and these changes are rather significant for the company’s VR/AR aspirations. Without further ado, here are the biggest reveals that Google has announced during the second keynote.

Daydream Euphrates

A year after the initial announcement of the Daydream VR platform, Google has started to tease an upcoming 2.0 update for Daydream. Codenamed Euphrates, this Android O-based platform is Google’s attempt to push Daydream as a proper functioning OS, which would go hand-in-hand with Google’s plan to release a standalone VR headset.

day dream euphrates
The Verge

With Euphrates, Google is looking to bring content sharing to the forefront. To do so, the company will introduce screenshots and a screen capture feature to Daydream.

Alongside them, Google has also implemented Google Cast into Euphrates. This addition would allow Daydream devices to cast their VR content to a Chromecast-enabled TV.

save to vr capture
The Verge

Taking a page out of Oculus and Samsung’s books, Google will also introduce a version of the Chrome browser that is built specifically for Daydream Euphrates. This would be particularly useful for those who plan to purchase Google’s standalone VR headset.

Also, as it is a Chrome browser, your bookmarks and personalizations can be synced across the desktop and the VR headset version. Daydream Euphrates will be coming to all Daydream-ready devices in Summer 2017.

YouTube VR

For YouTube VR, Google is looking to improve upon the social aspects of the video platform in order to dispel the notion that virtual reality is more of a solitary affair.

To do so, YouTube VR will be introducing something called Shared Rooms that will let people view 360-degree videos together. YouTube VR users will be represented by customizable human avatars while communications will be done via voice chat.

shared room

One feature that will not be making its way to YouTube VR is the comments section. Google has confirmed that comments will not be available on the platform as typing isn’t exactly intuitive when you have a headset strapped to your face.

Seurat will bring "desktop-level graphics" to mobile VR

When it comes to mobile VR, one of the biggest hurdles that the platform must clear is the lack of processing power. However, it appears that Google has came up with a solution to that issue, and that solution appears to be a tool called Seurat.

Named after the French painter Georges Seurat, Google claims that this tool is capable of rendering "high-fidelity scenes" on mobile VR headsets in real time.

The tool was demonstrated by visual effects outfit ILMxLAB by having it render a scene from Rogue One. The demonstration shows that Seurat is capable of reducing the scene’s texture size by a factor of 300, while its polygon count was reduced by a factor of a 1,000. What’s more, this is all done within 13 milliseconds.

rendered with seurat in real time

Needless to say, the mobile version of the scene isn’t quite as good as the one rendered by a desktop, but that should be a given considering what it is. Nevertheless, the scene itself is still quite good for what it is.

But perhaps the most important thing about Seurat is that it lowers the barrier of entry for creators to create VR content for mobile VR platforms.

Chromium gets an experimental AR API

Google’s Chrome browser has been playing nice with virtual reality as it fully embraces WebVR. Now that VR is a possibility on Chrome, Google is looking to add in augmented reality to the mix.

With this plan in mind, Google has released an experimental WebAR API for the Chromium browser. Available for download at GitHub, this API would allow developers to experiment with the potential of augmented reality being available on a web browser.

chromium ar

Considering the fact that the tech itself is still in its infancy, it’s probably safe to say that a WebAR-enabled version of Chrome is still quite a distance away. That being said, with developers now being able to toy with the WebAR API, it could mean that Google’s AR aspirations would finally bear fruit.

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