"The ZenFone AR is the world's first smartphone that is both Tango-enabled and Daydream-ready," is how Asus describes its new high-end phone. While Tango is a set of sensors and computer-vision software that enables smartphone augmented reality, Daydream is a platform for high-quality, mobile virtual reality achieved through Daydream VR apps. Both Tango and Daydream are technologies built by global search engine giant Google. Asus claims that it has worked closely with Google to effectively blur the gap between augmented and virtual reality. Because computer-vision workloads and graphics of Tango and Daydream applications demand intensive data crunching, a phone that must do both, ought to have high-end hardware. The ZenFone AR comes with high-end hardware.
As per Google's Android Compatibility Definition Document (CDD) for Android 7.0 Nougat, a Daydream VR-ready phone's "display must support a low-persistence mode with less than or equal to 5 ms persistence. Although Google doesn't specifically demand an OLED display -- as a requisite for Daydream -- the requirement for low persistency (and low latency) invariably means that only phones with an OLED panel -- and not an LCD panel -- qualify for Daydream.
As opposed to Daydream, a technology like Tango requires more heavy duty hardware including some serious camera gimmickry. The ZenFone AR sports a 23-megapixel -- Sony IMX 318 sensor - TriTech camera on the rear with f/2.0 aperture, 4-axis Optical Image Stabilisation (and 3-axis electronic image stabilisation for videos), alongside a host of depth and motion track sensors. While the depth sensing sensors - assisted with an infra-red (IR) projector - measure the phone's distance from real-world objects, the motion tracking sensors help in tracking the phone's location as it moves through space. The ZenFone AR, as a result, is a phone that will be aware of it surroundings and will allow users to interact with it virtually through AR. All that users will have to do is look through the phone, and they'll see objects and information overlaid onto the real world, something on the lines of Microsoft's Hololens, only cheaper. This can then be utilised in various ways. Asus - during the product launch - had two Tango apps to display: Holo and iStaging. While Holo let me make Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton dance together outside the White House, iStaging could easily be the answer to all your furniture shopping woes.
Tango, as a platform, has lots of potential, but, it is still early days for it. Although the Google Play Store now has over 25 Tango apps (and counting) not every app is available in India. At the same time, most of these apps feel like they are still in nascent stage - like Tango - and have a long time to go before realising their true potential. The ZenFone AR, although it has pretty high-end hardware, is prone to lag while opening and closing of Tango apps suggesting more work needs to be done.
The dual-SIM ZenFone AR supports 4G LTE and runs Android Nougat-based ZenUI. It is further backed by a 3,300mAh battery and supports Qualcomm's Quick Charge 3.0 technology that is claimed to charge 60 per cent of the phone in just 39 minutes. Furthermore, the phone comes with 5 magnet speakers with NXP SmartAMP for audio. There's also high-resolution support via compatible headphones. The ZenFone AR has been launched in India at a price of Rs 49,999. Watch this space for our full review of the Asus ZenFone AR in the days to come.