After launching this February, Google’s platform for mobile augmented reality hit version 1.2 and received a number of new features at I/O 2018. Many flagship devices from the top OEMs feature it, but Google is now working with Xiaomi to make it available in China where its services are traditionally blocked.
Officially, ARCore requires Android 7.0 and above, as well as the Google Play Store to receive updates to the AR component and download apps from third-party developers. The latter requirement is not possible in such places like China where the Play Store isn’t available.
The country is too valuable a market for Google to ignore so — like with Wear OS — Google is working directly with local app stores in order to distribute the platform. Its first partner is the Xiaomi App Store, with the two companies previously partnering on the Android TV Mi Box, while we’ve heard rumors of Google and Xiaomi working together on a US-bound phone.
Compared to Wear OS, ARCore requires more technical collaboration with manufacturers in order to get it up and running. As such, the first device to feature it is the Mi Mix 2S. The impressive near bezel-less phone should offer a great augmented reality experience.
Recent years have seen a number of rumors about the Play Store coming to China, but negotiations with the Chinese government and regulators have yet to pan out. Wear OS is so far Google’s most notable consumer presence in the country with watches available and various features being handled by local services, while wearable apps can be downloaded from Huawei or Mobvoi’s app stores.
Meanwhile, Google is pushing TensorFlow and its machine learning tools to Chinese developers and recently opened a Google AI Center in Beijing. ARCore and its gaming-heavy uses also falls in line with a recent investment into a eSports startup.
Google notes that more ARCore partners are “coming soon.”