Augmented reality (AR) has the potential for some really cool experiences, as we've seen with Microsoft's vaporware-ish Hololens and the (just-barely-AR) Pokémon Go, but it hasn't yet hit the mainstream. Tango, Google's AR platform for mobile devices, might help that along, and now Asus has unveiled the ZenFone AR, which works with Tango as well as Google's Daydream VR headset.
One of the main issues with something like Pokémon Go is that the virtual images are just projected flat on the screen over the top of whatever the camera is pointed at. There's no depth and no interaction with real-world objects, because that's well beyond the capabilities of a simple smartphone camera.
Tango devices, on the other hand, can sense the depth and motion of the world in front of them, and use that information to create three-dimensional maps of a space, which virtual objects and characters can then interact with. Asus's ZenFone AR is only the second phone with those capabilities, after Lenovo's Phab2 Pro, released last year.
To take those measurements of the world around it, the ZenFone AR is fitted with three rear cameras: the primary one is a powerful 23-MP camera, capable of shooting 4K video, and that's supported by another for tracking motion and another for sensing depth.
The Phab2 Pro may have beaten the ZenFone off the mark, but the newer phone outdoes it in most regards. Although Lenovo's entry has a bigger screen – 6.4 in, compared to the ZenFone's 5.7 in – the Zenfone trumps it with a more powerful processor, the Qualcomm Snapdragon 821, and twice the RAM, at 8 GB, which makes it the first phone to boast that much RAM. The device is powered by a 3,300-mAh battery.
Asus also announced the ZenFone 3 Zoom, a photography-focused phone with dual 12-MP cameras and a beefy 5,000-mAh battery. For now, the company hasn't given any details on pricing or availability for either device.
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