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While Google’s 2018 improvements to the augmented reality framework ARCore were rarely eye-catching, the company is kicking off 2019 with features Android users will appreciate: ARCore 1.7 is adding Augmented Faces, Sceneform object animations, and UI/UX-improving ARCore Elements that should make augmented reality apps livelier and easier to interact with.

Augmented Faces will work with front-facing Android cameras, recognizing a face before applying a 468-point 3D mesh that can be used to add mask-like textures, objects, and even facial retouching, automatically tracking and changing with the person’s movement. A sample animation shows a golden metallic mask spreading across a face with smooth contours, suggesting that more Android apps will soon be able to offer Snapchat– and Instagram-style AR features.

In a series of smaller but still welcome improvements, ARCore 1.7 also adds support for Sceneform animations, enabling objects to “dance, jump, spin and move around”; camera improvements to let users more easily snap screenshots in AR apps; and new pre-built UI components called “ARCore Elements” to simplify the assembly of AR app interfaces.

Most notably, the Elements include a Plane Finding surface detector and a multi-axis Object Manipulator, each designed to be popped into AR apps without requiring developers to hand-build the features, but there are others to explore. To help developers create better AR experiences, the Google Play Store is offering free downloads of an ARCore Elements app containing additional Element samples and guidance.

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The new version of ARCore is available now through the ARCore SDK Downloads page of the Android developer website. Updated version 1.7.0 SDKs are available for Java, C, iOS, Sceneform, and Unity.

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