Google wants to bring multiplayer AR to iOS and Android with its new Cloud Anchors tool

Multiplayer has been one of the huge limitations of early smartphone AR platforms; it’s a tough thing to tackle and relies on a lot of computer vision smarts to match what one user’s phone is seeing with another’s to create a shared virtual space. Google is tackling this problem. Onstage at I/O today, VR exec Nathan Martz announced Cloud Anchors, a tool for matching up users’ AR experiences with each other in real time.

“With Cloud Anchors, we actually allow multiple devices to generate a shared, synchronized understanding of the world so that multiple phones can see and interact with the exact same digital content in the same place at the same time,” Martz said onstage.

Now, what we didn’t see is what this setup process actually looks like and how involved it will be for users to match up with the digital environments. What’s pretty surprising is that it won’t just be Android phones matching up with Cloud Anchors — Google says they’ve built iOS support for the feature, as well.

While Apple’s ARKit and Google’s ARCore are duking it out to become the most technically advanced augmented reality developer’s platform, it seems that for the time being Google has taken a big leap ahead — though WWDC is just a few weeks away and multiplayer AR is an expected announcement. Though ARKit was first to market, after several months in preview, Google launched ARCore in February on 13 different phones, which the company said accounted for about 100 million devices.

Cloud Anchors is available for developers to play with now.