GDC 2009 Roundup: a (tiny) spark of augmented reality

The dust over GDC 2009 has settled a while ago and finally I got to reflect on the AR experience at the show.  Guess which headline would summarize it best:

a) augmented reality was the talk of the show

b) the expo floor was swarming with AR demos

c) AR games snatched lucrative game awards

d) none of the above


A friend in San Francisco wearing retro AR goggles

Unfortunately (d) is the right answer.

But – and it’s a big ‘but’ – the ignition spark was there. The seed was planted. The first shot of the revolution was fired.

(OK, maybe the last metaphor went too far.)

Here are 5 triggers I identified that ignited the spark:

1) Blair

The first GDC augmented reality talk – ever: Blair MacIntyre covered the latest and greatest about mobile augmented reality in front of a packed room of game developers. Awesome.

2) Demos

Was it the first time AR demos (and more demos) were presented at a major Game Developer Conference ?

Not sure – but it certainly was my first…

3)  Mentions in talks

Was Blair’s AR talk an isolated case?

Perhaps as a main topic it was. However, for the first time, I heard significant mentions of AR in multiple other talks. Check them out:

A talk about pervasive gaming. I liked the title: “Beyond the Screen: Principles of Pervasive Game” by the folks from Pervasive Games. The played with the concept in which the whole world is the playground.  These games, are founded in the belief that doing things for real is pleasurable. Games that harness reality as a source book have interesting dynamics.  Everything in reality matters to the game, the game play emerges from coincidence, and real and artificial blur.

Jane McGonigal fantastic talk “Learning to Make Your Own Reality: How to Develop Games that Re-invent Life As We Know It” introduced a concept she calls programmable reality. Augmented reality is among the key technologies to enable that idea.

Camera Based Gaming: The Next Generation by Diarmid Campbell attracted the attention of a room packed with game developers. He talked about Sony’s upcoming camera games for the PlayStation 3 such as Eye Pet. Armed with the EyeToy camera, these games will have the power to extract amusing gestures from players. Not quite AR – but sure smells like it.

Stretching Beyond entertainmentAR made a surprise appearance in a high profile panel discussion feturing some of the gods of the gaming industry: (from right) Ed Fries , Lorne Lanning,Bing Gordon,Will Wright, and Peter Molyneux.
The best quote award went to Ed Fries for saying: “We need to take game mechanics and apply them to the real world”.


4) Meet ups

Dinners, lunches, business meetups, brainstorming sessions – haven’t had that many meetings with AR enthusiasts since ISMAR 2008…

5) The iPhone

When it comes to bringing AR to the masses – the iPhone is a category on its own . And it doesn’t even know it yet…why the iPhone changed everything


Will we ever get to see answers a, b, or c become a real headline?

Most likely in the next few years, if you ask me.

A (tiny) spark was ignited.

9 Responses

  1. […] Friend of Ori’s in San Francisco wearing retro AR goggles (from Games Alfresco, Ori’s roundup of GDC 2009) […]

  2. […] by Ori Inbar Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) is the bastion of the video games business. If GDC is for developers, E3 is for the suites and the media, the best timing to launch a new game, […]

  3. […] * Lots of conference news in the last month.  Thankfully, the eyes on the scene, Ori Inbar, has brought back tons of interesting inside information: IGC East, E3 09, Where 2.0 and reflections on the GDC.  […]

  4. […] So how does GDC 2010 compare with last year’s Tiny Spark of Augmented Reality? In a nut shell: Augmented Reality made progress in mind share – but not yet in real impact […]

  5. […] how does GDC 2011 compare with GDC 2010 and GDC 2009′s Tiny Spark of Augmented Reality? In a nut shell: if in 2010 Augmented Reality made progress in mind share, in 2011 it’s […]

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