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Asus’ ZenFone AR has Google’s augmented and virtual reality baked in — but not combined

Asus’ ZenFone AR has Google’s augmented and virtual reality baked in — but not combined

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The Asus phone leaked earlier this week is now an official product: the ZenFone AR, which puts virtual and augmented reality center stage. The ZenFone AR is the first phone to support both Tango — Google’s mobile augmented reality platform — and Google’s Android-based Daydream VR platform. It’s also only the second phone to integrate Tango, after the Lenovo Phab Pro.

The ZenFone AR uses a Snapdragon 821 processor that’s supposedly optimized for Tango, as well as 6GB of RAM. It runs Android 7.0 Nougat on a 5.7-inch 1440 x 2560 Super AMOLED screen, and it supports Tango’s AR capabilities with a 23-megapixel main camera, a motion tracking camera, and a depth sensing camera, all arranged on the back of the phone. It will be released in the second quarter of 2017, with pricing details to come.

Asus ZenFone AR

We’ve previously speculated that Tango could bring new tracking capabilities to Google Daydream, but at this point, Google emphasizes that there’s no interplay between Tango and Daydream on the ZenFone AR. Its screen is slightly larger than Google’s 5.5-inch Pixel XL, but like all Daydream-ready devices, Asus’ phone fits into the Google-made Daydream View headset.

On the Tango side, Asus boasts that it’s working with Google and other companies to expand the number of available apps. Currently, there are around 30, including a home improvement app from Lowe’s and a virtual dinosaur exhibit from the American Museum of Natural History.

Tango and Daydream are both promising platforms, but it’s unclear whether they’re big enough selling points to drive adoption, especially since we can’t say much more about the ZenFone AR’s quality otherwise. The ultimate goal for AR and VR options is to make them feel like a standard part of Android, not like defining features — but Asus’ new phone reminds us how unusual they really are.