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Google's new phone AR update can hide virtual things in the real world

Your virtual cat is hiding behind your real sofa.

See that little critter hide? That's occlusion.

Augmented reality on phones means layering virtual things on top of real ones, but the distinctions might get harder to tell apart. An update to Google's ARCore technology can sense depth in a room and hide virtual objects behind real ones using just a single phone camera... and the early results look promising.

Apple's newest augmented reality toolset, ARKit 3, has this ability as well, but only on very recent iPhones and iPads. Google ARCore needs a compatible Android phone to work too, but looks to blend furniture, pets, and a lot more with apps that incorporate the new ARCore Depth API and its object-hiding tech (called occlusion).


The virtual cat hides now!


Google's made a number of moves in AR this year on phones, mostly to serve practical purposes. One of the first apps to get this occlusion support, Houzz, uses it to place virtual furniture more realistically in a room, sliding behind a sofa instead of just overlapping.

Virtual furniture hiding behind real furniture.


The new tech works today on Google's Scene Viewer in Android, if you have an ARCore-ready phone and are curious. In case you don't remember, Scene Viewer is the app that birthed all those AR animals living in Google Search.

As more companies start to explore AR smart glasses that create an ultra-realistic blend of virtual and real, technologies like occlusion are key. Google's use of it in ARCore looks like another step on the path using phones, first.