Google unveiled new software dedicated to the development of augmented reality (AR) apps for Android, as it looks to do battle in the field with rivals Apple and Facebook.

In a blog post, VP of Android engineering Dave Burke said the software development kit, dubbed ARCore, will initially be released as a preview capable of running on “millions of devices”, starting with the Pixel and Samsung Galaxy S8.

Burke said Google was targeting 100 million devices at the end of the preview, and is working with manufacturers including Samsung, Huawei, LG, Asus and others: “to make this possible with a consistent bar for quality and high performance”. However, the company did not reveal a date for a broader release.

The main aim of ARCore is to allow developers to create games and other apps with AR capabilities, bringing characters and other experiences to the real world through superimposed images.

In 2016, the AR market gained a major boost with the launch of the globally popular AR-based Pokemon Go game, and the world’s major technology companies are now vying for a piece of the action.

Google’s move follows Apple’s unveiling of a similar tool, ARKit which it plans to release later this year. Facebook, meanwhile, launched its own AR platform, Camera Effects, in April.

In the blog, Burke said Google had been developing the fundamental technologies that power mobile AR over the past three years with Tango, the company’s own platform dedicated to the technology.

ARCore, specifically, will enable developers to focus on three elements of AR – motion tracking, environmental understanding and light estimation.

Burke said the three elements will ensure virtual objects remain accurately placed, and make their appeareance even more realistic by adapting lighting to specific environments.

“ARCore is our next step in bringing AR to everyone,” added Burke.