MANILA - A lot of people got their first taste of augmented reality (AR) last year when Pokemon Go became a runaway hit on smartphones.
But the popular mobile game barely scratched the surface of the possibilities of AR. The Nintendo game just layered two-dimensional animation over footage being captured by the smartphone camera.
That is all about to change as Google's Tango AR platform becomes more widely available for mobile devices. Tango will allow 3D mapping, physical space measurement, environmental recognition, and indoor navigation, among others, all of which promise a much more immersive experience.
Among the first devices to take advantage of Tango is the Asus Zenfone AR, which was introduced at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas in January this year.
This new flagship phone from Taiwanese tech giant Asus, was hailed as the best smartphone product in CES.
Last week, we got to try the Zenfone AR, in Taipei during Computex.
On specs alone, the Zenfone AR is already a pretty impressive beast.
It's got a 5.7 inch Super AMOLED screen with a 1440 x 2560 pixel (WQHD) resolution. It's got a fast Snapdragon 821 processor with up to 8GB of RAM and up to 256GB of storage. And it boasts of a 23MP f/2.0 main camera that can also shoot 2160p at 24fps.
Like other mid-end and high-end phones built by Asus, the Zenfone AR has a sleek design that feels premium to the touch.
But where this phone sets itself apart is its capability to run AR apps via Tango.
In Taipei during Computex, we got a first hand experience of just what AR could do. We interacted with an augmented reality BMW car.
The Zenfone AR uses three cameras to track your movement, reacting to forward, backward, and sideward motions.
We could open its door and even look inside the car. Unlike Pokemon Go, the Zenfone demo made you feel immersed in the AR.
"The high-resolution 23MP camera lets you view virtual objects in your actual environment in stunning detail," says the Asus flyer on the Zenfone AR.
The BMW augmented reality demo by Asus did not disappoint. Tango AR is a really promising technology that makes you excited about the quality of apps that can be developed with it.
But besides AR, the new Zenfone is also a very capable virtual reality (VR) device.
It is actually the first smartphone to incorporate both AR and VR via Google's Daydream platform.
You could strap on the Zenfone AR to a separate goggle system and use it for VR content.
Asus said the Zenfone AR will become available this month in the Philippines. There is no word yet on how much it will cost.
Admittedly, a lot of everyday users will probably not be enticed by the Zenfone AR's cutting-edge capabilities. But gadget enthusiasts who want to stay on the bleeding edge of mobile technology will find the Zenfone AR very intriguing.