Another day, another dead Google product. This time, the augmented reality app “Measure” is put in the meadow.
As first noted by Android Police, the Android app is no longer available via a Play Store search, and a direct link to the listing shows a new message in the description: “This app is no longer supported and will not be updated . Users who previously installed this app can continue to use this app on compatible devices.”
Measure was pretty neat. The app used a smartphone to measure real-life objects through the magic of augmented reality. AR tracks real-life objects to accurately place virtual items in a camera feed, and if the tracking is good enough, an app can convert that data into a pretty good estimate of distance. Measuring was never good enough for applications like detailed carpentry – we found that short measurements were accurate to within half an inch, and longer measurements could be several inches off – but the best tape measure is the one you have with you. Plus, the app worked great if you wanted to measure something large, like a telephone pole, which would be quite difficult with a tape measure.
The Measure app started with another dead Google product: Project Tango, which loaded a smartphone with specialized sensors, enabling early wearable augmented reality on development devices in 2014 and a commercial device, the Lenovo Phab 2 Pro, in 2016. 2018, Measure arrived on regular Android phones without all the extra sensors; Google’s ARCore augmented reality toolkit did all the tracking through the camera hardware. Measure was such a good idea that Apple released a similar app for iPhones in 2018.
Measure’s demise isn’t a big deal as long as the underlying framework that powers it – ARCore – still exists. ARCore takes care of tracking, detecting and measuring augmented reality, and the Measure app simply presented all that information in an easy-to-use user interface. There are many alternative ARCore measurement apps on the Play Store, and since they all use the same toolkit, their tracking and accuracy should all be about the same: you usually just pick the UI you like. Some apps are in the style of straight rulers, while others focus on creating floor plans.
Even before Google pulled the app, Measure wasn’t a good option compared to third-party alternatives. The app only has 2.9 stars in the Play Store with many users citing bugs and crashes. It doesn’t sound like the app has been kept up to date. The two third-party apps linked above hover around 4.5 stars.
Google still uses ARCore in products such as Google Maps, Google Search and Google Lens. In addition, ARCore got a few new updates and APIs at Google I/O 2021, so it sounds like the underlying framework has become indispensable.