Another day, another dead Google product. This time, the augmented reality app “Measure” is being put out to pasture.
As first spotted 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 it 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 in order to accurately place virtual items in a camera feed, and if the tracking is good enough, an app can turn that data into a pretty good estimate of distance. Measure was never good enough for applications like detailed carpentry work—we found that short measurements were accurate to within half an inch, and longer measurements could be off by several inches—but the best measuring tape 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 pretty difficult with a tape measure.
The Measure app started life on another dead Google product: Project Tango, which loaded a smartphone with specialized sensors, enabling early portable augmented reality on development devices in 2014 and a commercial device, the Lenovo Phab 2 Pro, in 2016. In 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 huge deal as long as the underlying framework that powers it—ARCore—is still around. ARCore handles augmented reality tracking, detection, and measurement, and the Measure app simply presented all that information in a friendly 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 pretty similar—you’re mostly just picking the UI you like. Some apps are in the style of straight-up rulers, while others are focused on making floor plans.
Even before Google pulled the app, Measure wasn’t a great option compared to third-party alternatives. The app is down to 2.9 stars on the Play Store, with many users citing bugs and freezes. It does not sound like the app has been kept up to date. The two third-party apps linked above are hovering around 4.5 stars.
Google still uses ARCore in products like Google Maps, Google Search, and Google Lens. Plus, at Google I/O 2021, ARCore got a few new updates and APIs, so it sounds like the underlying framework is here to stay.