Google just kickstarted the augmented reality stickers war

Who needs real friends when you have an AR squad?
Image: raymond wong/mashable

Need another reason to switch to Google’s Pixel 2 phones? How about an augmented reality squad?

Unveiled with all its fall hardware in October, Google has finally launched its anticipated “AR Stickers” feature that lets all Pixel phones (that includes first-gen models) place virtual characters and objects from the likes of Star Wars: The Last Jedi and Stranger Things and then snap creative photos and videos with them.

Google’s AR Stickers aren’t a new idea — Snapchat and a bunch of other apps have had augmented reality features for a while — but by incorporating them into the Pixel and Pixel 2’s main camera app, the company has a chance to make its camera more appealing.

AR Stickers require a Pixel phone running on Android 8.0 Oreo (so you’ll have to update if you want them), and they’re very much like playing with AR Bitmoji in Snapchat, which are a lot of fun.

Once you’ve updated your Pixel, you’ll see a new “AR Stickers” option with the menu button. Tap it, and you’ll get a variety of options including AR stickers for characters from The Last Jedi like a Stormtrooper, porg, BB-8, and even X-wings and TIE Fighters.

It’s a life-sized Stormtrooper!

Image: screenshot: raymond wong/mashable

Porgs are so annoying.

Image: SCREENSHOT: RAYMOND WONG/MASHABLE

There’s also a tie-in with Strangers Things, which includes AR stickers for cutesy version of all of the show’s main characters. And yeah, there’s also a Demogorgon.

The other available AR stickers are more general options such as “Foodmojis” (exactly what you think they are), 3D text (you can type whatever you want), and celebrations (i.e. birthday cake, gifts, champagne, etc.).

Using AR Stickers is pretty straightforward. You have to do an initial scan of the area you want to drop an AR sticker on by rotating your phone in a circle, and that’s pretty much it.

After that’s done, you just drag your AR Stickers over to a surface and resize them to your liking. Tracking was pretty good on the Pixel 2 XL that I tried these stickers on. If you spend more than a few seconds making sure the camera has a flat plane to place the virtual goodies on, the results can be really sweet with nice textures and shadows. 

The best part about AR Stickers is that you can move 360-degrees around the AR object to get the angle you want.

Google put together a short video of what you could do with the AR stickers below:

OK, so AR Stickers probably won’t be the main reason why anyone’s going to get a Pixel phone, but their presence in the main camera app is a clear shot at everyone, especially Apple’s ARKit: Google’s taking AR seriously.

Combined with ARCore, the company’s augmented reality SDK for Android, Google has the weaponry to own AR in ways that it has failed with virtual reality.

AR Stickers are a novelty — they’re fun for a few minutes and then you’re over them — but expect to see more of these infiltrate other camera and messaging apps as AR becomes the next hotbed for tech. Begun the AR Sticker wars have.

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