If you own a Google Pixel, you'll soon have augmented reality versions of Iron Man, the Incredible Hulk, and Childish Gambino on your camera.
During its now-annual consumer hardware launch event, Google unveiled its rebrand of ARCore showcase AR Stickers, now known as Playground, for its Pixel smartphones — with sticker packs for Marvel's Avengers and other characters, from cartoonish sports athletes to adorable pets, coming to the AR app.
Along with the new name and characters, Playground will now feature AR content for the front-facing camera in addition to the rear camera. While characters in AR Stickers already react to each other, the content for the front-facing camera in Playground, called Playmoji, will also react to the actions and facial expressions of photo subjects. For instance, pose with Iron Man on the front-facing and give a thumbs up, and Tony Stark responds in kind.
"Playground brings you more powerful AR experiences and uses AI to recommend content for expressing yourself in the moment. You can make your photos and videos come to life with Playmoji—characters that react to each other and to you—and tell a richer story by adding fun captions or animated stickers you'll recognize from Gboard," said Aparna Chennapragada, VP of product for Google AR/VR, in a blog post.
In addition, Playground employs artificial intelligence to recommend AR content for the scene within the camera view.
"Are you walking your dog? Cooking in the kitchen? Gardening in the backyard? Playground uses advanced computer vision and machine learning to recommend relevant Playmoji, stickers and captions to populate the scene," said Chennapragada.
Along with previewing the Marvel sticker pack, Google showed off some footage of its collaboration with Donald Glover for a dancing AR character based on his musical alter ego, Childish Gambino. (Coincidentally, Apple has done its own take on Childish Gambino in AR as an Animoji.)
Playground will launch with the Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL with content packs from Marvel along with Weather, Pets, Sports and Signs; the Childish Gambino experience will arrive later this year. Support for the first and second generation devices will follow soon via a future update.
Aside from a winter sports pack released in conjunction with the Winter Olympics, additional content for the app has been non-existent.
Meanwhile, Snapchat and Facebook offer new AR content on a daily basis; in fact, both have hosted Marvel AR experiences in conjunction with the release of Avengers: Infinity War. (At the time, I wondered aloud why Google hadn't put together an Avengers sticker pack for AR Stickers, so consider the Playground announcement the ultimate in wish fulfillment.)
After a quiet year with AR Stickers, Playground reboots the AR platform and adds some exciting potential for fun experiences. For the feature to be more than a sideshow on the Pixel's well-regarded camera and a demo for ARCore's capabilities, though, it'll need more consistent content additions and greater variety. But, hey, thanks for the bringing Marvel to the fray at least!