Augmented Reality at the Mobile World Congress

Next week, February 15-18th, will be the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.  There will be a variety of AR related events during the MWC.

AR Showcase

Christine Perey has organized an AR Showcase on Wednesday, February 17th from 5:00-7:00, so AR companies can demonstrate their services and products to customers.  Designers will also have a chance to compare and contrast their products versus the competition.  The following companies have confirmed their attendance:

You can find the Showcase in the northeast corner of the courtyard.  Announcements for the AR showcase can be tweeted to #arshow (changed for length.)

The Mobile AR Summit is an invitation only event.  If you’re interested in joining, please contact Christine Perey at cperey@perey.com.    More information can be found here.

Other Related Events

Navteq Challenge
Sunday, 14.2.2010
Poble Espanyol, City Hall.
Wikitude Drive is an Augmented Reality navigation system. They are one of the 10 finalists at this years Navteq Challenge.

http://www.nn4d.com/site/global/market/lbs_challenge/about/emea/home/p_home.jsp
Mobile Premier Award in Innovation
Monday, 15.2., 2010 15:00 to 20:00
Petit Palau of Palau de la Musica
Mobilizy is with Wikitude one of the 20 finalists of the “Mobile Premier Award in Innovation”.
http://www.mobilepremierawards.com/
Martin Lechner, CTO Mobilizy, will present.

AR Summit

Wednesday, 17.2. 13:00 to 19:00
Location: to be announced.
Mobilizy CTO Martin Lechner presents a position paper “ARML an Augmented Reality Standard”. ARML is currently being reviewed by W3C (World Wide Web Consortium). At 17:00 there will be a Wikitude Showcase presentation.

We won’t be able to attend – so if you’re there – keep us updated about your experience.


Weekly Linkfest

The time has come for another fun-packed linkfest.
But before we begin, a special message to those of you who like beer as much as AR, and live in the vicinity of Munich. Toby of augmented.org is inviting you to the first Munich AR regulars’ table. You can find more details here, and don’t forget to take pictures. Feel free to tell me about your own AR event/meetup!

And now, for the links:

There were a couple of other interesting things happening this week, don’t you worry, I’ll have a dedicated post about them in the very near future. In the meantime, this week’s video comes to us via @chrisgrayson. It’s very cool, but unfortunately, I don’t understand how it was done. Yes, ARToolKit was involved, but how was the robot augmented to fire rockets? What provided the distance readings? If any of you read Japanese and can shed light on those question – please do so in the comments:

Have a great week!

Who Should Attend The Augmented Reality Event in Santa Clara, CA June 2nd & 3rd, 2010

Over the last 2 years we have seen growing interest in Augmented Reality in various events – panels, dev camps, meetups – and many more. Due to growing demand for knowledge and expertise in augmented reality (AR), a group of AR industry insiders, backed by the AR Consortium have put together the first commercial event dedicated to advance the business of augmented reality.

How is are2010 different from ISMAR…

…previously touted here as the “World’s best Augmented Reality event”?

Well, ISMAR is still the best AR event for the scientific community. If you want to learn about (or present) the latest advancements in AR research – you should be in Seoul this October for ISMAR 2010. However, for the rest of us, who wish to take advantage of AR in practice, in the commercial world, and build a business around it – there was a gaping hole.

That is, until now.

Meet the Augmented Reality Event.

Who’s this event for?

For established and start up AR companies –

For established and start up AR companies (such as Total Immersion, Metaio, Acrossair, Ogmento, Circ.us, Mobilizy, Layar, Zugara, Neogence, whurleyvision, Chaotic Moon Studios, and many more) – are2010 is a stage to showcase their products and services; a venue to form partnerships, learn about latest innovations, and most importantly speak with clients. Bruno Uzzan, CEO of Total Immersion will wow the audience with a cutting edge augmented reality show; Peter Meier, CTO of Metaio, will speak about his companies latest products. Early stage startups and individual developers will receive guidance from Cole Van Nice (Chart Venture Partners) for how to build a successful company in the AR space, including raising funding (from VCs that actually invest in AR), licensing technology and IP, legal aspects, forging partnerships, etc. Christine Perey will speak about the scope of the mobile AR industry today and it’s growth trajectory.

For Developers –

For developers, are2010 is a window into the latest AR algorithms, engines and programming tools. Learn from case studies and post mortems delivered by experienced developers from the leading companies in the space. Blair MacIntyre, director of the GVU Center’s Augmented Environments Lab at Georgia Tech, will speak about his experience with tools and technologies while developing augmented reality games. Daniel Wagner, one of the leading mobile AR researchers in the world, will bring developers into the wonderful world of mobile AR. Patrick O’Shaughnessey, which has lead the development of more webcam-based AR campaigns than anyone else I know – will share his knowledge of what works and what doesn’t. Mike Liebhold, Distinguished Fellow at the Institute for the Future , will speak about Technology foundations of an Open ARweb. Gene Becker, co-founder of AR DevCamp, will dive into augmented reality and ubiquitous computing, and Sean White, a pioneer in Green Tech AR will suggest concrete examples of how AR can help save the planet

For Mobile, Hardware, and Platform Companies

For Mobile, Hardware, and Platform companies (such as Vuzix, Nokia, Qualcomm, Intel, QderoPateo, Microsoft, Google, Apple etc.) are2010 consists of a captive audience to launch and showcase their latest devices, processors, AR glasses, sensors, etc. The best collective minds of the AR commercial world will be onsite to articulate the market demand characteristics and help influence the design of future hardware.

For Clients and Agencies –

For clients and agencies in entertainment, media, publishing, education, healthcare, government, tourism, and many more – are2010 offers everything you need to know about AR: how to leverage augmented reality to advance your brand, attract and keep your customers, and how to build successful campaigns and products that will delight users, including postmortems of landmark augmented reality projects.

Jarrell Pair, CTO and a founder of LP33.tv, will speak about “Augmented Reality in Music Entertainment: Then and Now”, Brian Selzer, co-founder and President of Ogmento, will deliver a crash course for clients and agencies about how to leverage AR in marketing campaigns. Marshal Kirkpatrick, lead blogger for ReadWriteWeb, will share the results of his AR survey collecting feedback from dozens of AR developers and their experience in delivering AR campaigns and apps. Kent Demain, designer of the visual effects in Minority Report, will open our minds with the talk: “Taking Hollywood visual effects spectacle out of the theatre and into your world”. And of course…

For any AR Enthusiast –

Are you an AR Enthusiast? If so, you’re going to feel like a kid in a candy store at ARE, with a soon-to-be unforgettable keynote by Bruce Sterling, demo gallery, exhibitors from leading companies, artists installations from AR artists such as Eric Gradman and Helen Papagiannis, and many more surprises.

If you are into Augmented Reality – are2010 is the one event you should attend this year.

Want to join the event? Early registration is now open!

Best Selling Augmented Reality Games of 2009

In my pursuit of the ultimate augmented reality game – 2009 was a landmark year. From 0 to 30 selling games in 4 months is nothing short of stunning (and makes my 2010 prediction of 10x more AR games – not too bold…;)

Games on my iPhone

2009 was the year AR games broke from the lab into the hands of consumers – and this post celebrates that achievement.

So how to start reviewing the flood of AR games?

By Platform? By Genre? By commercial success? By Game Mechanic? Let’s try these out.

By Platform

Augmented Reality games have been developed for a multitude of platforms such as PC/Mac, Nokia phones, Windows Mobile phones, Android phones, PDAs with cameras, Nintendo DSi, and the Gizmondo. But, in 2009, the most lucrative platform for developers, with the broadest distribution by far was…surprise, surprise – the iPhone. In fact, all games on our list – save for one exception – were developed for the iPhone.

So the traditional way of reviewing games by platforms won’t do for this year’s review.

By Genre

Another popular approach to group games is by genre. When it comes to AR games genres, there’s a bit more variety than platforms: this year we have seen mostly shooters, but also horror games, a treasure hunt, and even one driving game.

Still, the limited variety this year does not merit a breakdown by genre, just not yet.

By Commercial Success

I would have loved to provide you with a sorted list of games by revenue. Unfortunately, this information is not yet public. My guesstimate is that the most commercially succesful AR game of 2009 was in fact released for the PSP – not the iPhone. You guessed it: Sony’s Invizimals (Developed by Novarama). Lay traps (markers) around your real environment, and use the PSP Camera to hunt down invisible animals and capture them. Simply described by users as “like having a real life pokemon…”
In addition to introducing a unique experience, Invizimals boasts a high production value and critics have been raving about it with a 7.7 average rating.

A quick look at Amazon’s rankings (UK only) reveals that this game is #1 among PSP simulation games (and that is before it has even reached the US!)

However, comparing these indicators with Apple’s app store rankings will be like comparing apples to oranges (pun intended). Hence, this year I resort to slicing and dicing the AR games of 2009 – by game mechanic.

By Game Mechanic

The term “Game mechanics” is defined by game design scholars as “a construct of rules intended to produce an enjoyable game“. What fascinates me in Augmented Reality is that it enables a whole new set of mechanics never before seen in video games. In 2009 we have barely scratched the surface. No one knows what new game mechanics AR will unleash next, but it will surely be a lot of fun, alfresco.

Following our Letter to Apple, a new iPhone SDK was released (a coincidence?) with the ability to overlay graphics on live video. This, enabled a totally new game mechanic for the iPhone, and although Apple failed to offer public access to the iPhone’s live video (an essential capability for analyzing pixels for aligning graphics with real world objects) – the iPhone became overnight the preferred device for Augmented Reality Games.

So what’s the crop so far?

A quick search for augmented reality games on the app store reveals this amazing list:

Let’s make sense of it.

360 Shooters

The top game mechanic of AR games on the iphone uses the compass and accelerometer (3GS only) to compute your orientation and overlay graphics on the iPhone screen as if the action is happening all around you in 360 degrees. Bottom line: it makes you move! (and no need to print markers…)

Kids would love it, right? It’s actually a double edge sword. When I asked my daughter (12) to test such a game she raised her head from facebooking in her immobilized position and asked: “will I have to move”?

This is typical to gamers. Take one of the gaming world luminaries, Tim Schafer, who recently told Wired: “When I’m gaming, I like to sit on the couch and move as little as possible”

Here is a chronological list of 360 shooter games on the iPhone. The first game to take the plunge and be accepted on the iPhone app store was:

1) Fairy Trails
Released by Freeverse on September 26

Vodpod videos no longer available.

As a developer of best selling apps for the iPhone, Freeverse decided not to go for the obvious shooter and delivered a fairy tale based theme with pleasant visuals and sounds. A clever design choice given the technical limitations: flying fairy things tend to fly slowly, all around you, and grabbing them with fairy dust (by tapping) is not as intense an action as shooting spaceships.

Turn your iPhone into a magical creature-detector with Fairy Trails! This augmented reality game opens a window to the fairy world, revealing fireflies, colorful butterflies and the ever elusive fairies. Shake your device to power the detector and then scan your surroundings…to merge the real world and game world in spectacular ways! Simply tap the creatures to collect them in your jars.

Reviews are enchanted by the new mechanic but are largely neutral (“a novelty?” by PocketGamer).

One element missing from Fairy Trails is a radar view that shows where the creatures are located around you – an element that was added in subsequent games.

2) Arcade Reality
Released by ToySpring on Oct 9th 2009
(Originally released in 2007 on Palm Treo and previously reviewed on games alfresco)

Toyspring didn’t go too far with the theme choice: shooting aliens. Once you overcome the tacky-wacky design it can get pretty addictive. It has a functional HUD (with a radar view showing alien ships in 360 degrees) and is reminiscent of classic Arcade shooters: the center of the screen is the cross hair – press the shoot button to kill. For my son (16) it is a throw back to the good ol’ days of Chuck E. Cheeses.

For over 30 years millions of aliens are slaughtered daily in video games. Until now they could not attack us in the real world…
Unlike most games where you only train your fingers, you must actually move to play Arcade Reality!

Arcade Reality is a low-brow shooter game with addictive qualities and it led the way for other variations on the theme.

3) Mosquitoes
Released by Makayama Software on Nov 1st 2009
(Previously reviewed by games alfresco)

Is it a game? Or is it a simulation of real life mosquitoes hunting?

Mosquitoes is a bare-bones game that uses the compass+accelerometer mechanic to overlay mosquitoes (and their annoying buzzing sound) on live video in 360 degrees. Tap a mosquito to kill it. That’s it.

Some people thought it was a sham. Just riding the AR wave.
However, the key issue is the mechanic. It doesn’t work in a believable way. There is no proper coordination between player movement, visuals on the screen, and the consequence of tapping the screen. It feels somewhat random.

The gamer’s verdict: not really a game…

4) – ARGH – AR Ghost Hunter
Released by Off Panel Productions on Nov 4th 2009

The theme is compelling: Hunt for ghosts in the real world.

Use your iPhone as a set of Ghost Goggles to see into the ethereal plane. Ghosts actually exist in specific locations everywhere. Using Augmented Reality technology, ARGH determines where you are and where you’re facing, and shows you what ghosts exist around you.

Ghosts themed games land itself very nicely to the 360 shooter mechanic; ghosts don’t have to be perfectly aligned with the real world to look believable…

But is it fun?

Reviews weren’t too favorable. The best Wired.com found to say about it was: “ARGH festively debuted on this glorious Friday the 13th” and “could double as a fitness app”…but summed it up as “felt like a short-lived gag”

Still, ARGH was a brave attempt and we couldn’t wait to see what augmented reality games emerge next.

Fun fact: A similar game (Ghostwire) was previously developed for Nokia phones and won awards.

5) Fire Fighter 360
Released by Presselite Nov 10th 2009

I was excited to see the game announcement by Presselite, a creator of prominent AR applications. I was especially intrigued by the choice of theme: instead of shooting aliens, let’s use AR to do good (fight fires)!

The graphics and sound track seemed polished (90’s style), and the story was to die for. But was it any fun?

Here are snippets of my son’s reaction while playing:

– “I can’t lose a half baked game like this” (huh?)
– “ahhh…!” (when getting “burned”)
– “Just doing my job” (when succeeded in putting out a fire)
– “I can hear it but I can’t see it!” (missing radar view)
– “nice dramatic effects” (always positive…)
And here is his verdict: “it felt like I was nursing the game…please work for me game…” or in other words…he felt pity for the game.

Why so harsh?

Because flames – unlike mosquitoes, spaceships or fairies – do not just float in mid air, but usually come out of a specific object. The game mechanic limitations (inability to perfectly align graphics with objects) just didn’t work out for this game. Great attempt; bad game design choice.

6) Ghost Hunt AR
Released by NeverBored Studios Nov 10th 2009

A copy cat of previous Ghost hunting games that didn’t even come with a YouTube video…

7) Pandemica
Released by XMG Studios on Nov 19th 2009

[YouTube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dtAFb2uF1AA]

XMG was able to generate nice buzz in the media during the game launch, and delivered high production value to support the hype. It also introduces multiplayer support (over Bluetooth or Wi-Fi) so that players can work together as a team to dominate and destroy the aliens.

A new design choice in the game was introduced: you can tap anywhere on the screen to shoot an alien ship.

Pandemica transforms your device into a sub-field bio-scanner that can see the invisible alien organisms that are all around you. Your mission is to eliminate the enemy before they get you—and you get gooed. Unlock weapons such as: Missiles, CEB (Continuous Electron Beam), and the BFB (Bosonic Field Bomb) to complement your trusty standard-issue Laser.

Here’s my gamer’s perspective: robust game play, movement made sense, wasn’t a hassle to play…

The game was also a media darling with positive reviews:  5 stars by AppStore HQ and A+ by SlapApp

8) Cam Wars
Released by Gamedokan Japan on Dec 8th 2009

One more spaceships shooter, this time from Japan…

Spaceships attacks the earth.
You can shoot the lasers by touching.
Sweep away the enemies and save the earth!

Besides the Tokyo tower in the backgroung – there is nothing new about this game. In fact it’s a step backwards from previous attempts with this game mechanic.

And there’s more of the same from Gamedokan: SplatCam and Virtual Slingshot – all variations on the same mechanic.

9) 0ghost and 0santa
Released v1.1 by 0cog on Dec 9th 2009

Yet another Ghost themed game, this time from a self proclaimed leader in Augmented Reality (AR) and advanced software development located in Silicon Valley…

zeroGhost will turn your iPhone into a ghost hunting tracking device allowing you a glimpse into their plane of existence. While you hunt them, they try and steel your life energy until either you or they are dead. Problem is, there are many more of them, than you.

Couldn’t find any reviews or videos about this game, and the game site is very laconic.  I typically buy and try games I review, and I would have tried 0Ghost myself, but not for $4.99!

A second game from 0Cog uses a similar mechanic – but this time – with a Christmas theme…meet ZeroSanta:

When you see Santa, throw snowballs at him and receive gifts in return. Be careful not to hit the reindeer or they will return to the North Pole with Santa.

10) Augmented Reality Dimension Invaders
Released by Rapidito Games on Dec 16 2009

The latest game to make it to the store has a nice screenshot, but doesn’t surpass the previous games in any other way.

They have broken the barriers between dimensions to come to our reality.
They are coming to kill the human race. They are coming to kill you!
But you have the most powerful weapon. You can see the enemy spaceships through your iPhone camera. You can look for them in the app left bottom radar, point them with the cross hair and shoot touching anywhere on the screen.

Tap anywhere on the screen, but you only shoot the alien in the crosshair.

Overall – I give it a “meh…”
Some reviews were more generous with a 8/10 by i4U

That concludes the list of 360 shooters launched in 2009. Best games in this category: Arcade Reality and Pandemica.

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Photo Augmenting (or Phogmenting)

What other AR mechanics are possible on the iPhone?

Several notable companies thought that overlaying graphics on a static picture taken by the user – is cool.

I want to believe these apps were originally conceived as true AR apps (overlaying graphics on real life objects) – but since Apple didn’t make the elusive video API public – they had to settle for a workaround: take a picture of your real live object – and then overlay AR as if it were the real world…

This mechanic did have an advantage. It didn’t rely on overlaying graphics on live video – a feature that became available on the iPhone only in September. The first game appeared as early as June.

Here is the lowdown of the next mechanic I like to call – phogmenting.

11) The Hidden Park
Released by Bulpadok originally in June 2009

A brilliant use of the photo augmenting mechanic:

The Hidden Park is a magical adventure that your kids will love. It’s an afternoon out for the whole family that won’t break the bank. It’s a groundbreaking blend of fantasy and reality. Enjoy.

It uses nice graphics and a story to get the young (and young at heart) outdoors to play a treasure hunt-like game.

It’s tied to specific parks – but the Park Builder allows you to localize the adventure for your own local park. Although it’s not using augmented reality in the scientific sense – it’s inspired by AR concepts and could transform one day into a magnificent AR game.

Bulpadok reused the technology developed for The Hidden Park to create another (free) app:

12) Fairies Everywhere
Released by Bulpadok and Conduct

Briefly spotted in Apple’s top 25 application for kids games?

Fairies Everywhere reveals magical creatures in your own photos. Take a photo and you’ll see that fairies live all around us! All the time!
It’s an entertaining game for kids that creates memorable portraits for everyone – from dad to grandma and beyond. Get discounts to order prints of your fairy photos online.

As much as Hidden Park hit the spot – Fairies Everywhere was disappointing: how many times do I want to see the same fairies superimposed on my living room pictures…?

(Unlike the Hidden Park it didn’t really give any incentive to go alfresco)

13) – Drift
Released by HIT Lab NZ on Nov 5th 2009 (independent company from HIT Lab NZ Research center)

I tried hard to have fun with this game – but besides the believable engine roar and the cool music – I did not succeed…
To be fair, it’s likely this game was originally conceived as a true AR app – overlaying  muscle car CG making doughnuts – on live video). It’s probably reverted to a static image to be allowed on the app store.

I can imagine this game being a tad more fun if played on dynamic video; players would be manipulating the iPhone to control the car around the marker-card laid in the middle of your own room.

While at it – HIT Lab released another game with a similar mechanic (photogmeting) – this time it’s a revenge against bugs dubbed: Splatter Bugs

One user comment I caught online says it all: “whew, the video saved me from getting this.”

Nuff said.

14) GEO Chaser
Released by Michael Zitzelsberger on Nov 19th 2009

Go geochasing friends and strangers with your iPhone. Play it inconspicuous like an agent, hidden like a ninja or offensive like a pirate. GeoChaser uses GPS to locate you and your opponents. Your positions will be displayed on a map.

Unfortunately, the GPS+compass combo isn’t accurate enough to help you identify targets. But it’s probably more fun than matching tweets with tweeters – as many apps do today.

15) Gunman
Released by Stage Two Labs on Dec 8th 2009

“Laser tag meets urban paintball in an epic battle against your friends, a heart pounding adventure that puts you and your iPhone directly in the line of fire.”

The game looks awesome in the video. In reality, the players generate the fun – not the game. What’s its “added value”?

When shooting a photo of your opponent, it recognizes the color of your opponent’s shirt. If it’s a hit – it will make your opponent’s iPhone vibrate. Neat? Yes! Augmented? Ah…who cares. Is it enough to become a best selling game? It will have to do more than vibrate.

AR history buffs among you will remember this game was originally conceived way back in 2007 for the Android phone; does Wifi Army ring a bell? Or the Lumix Battle commercial?

The world is the battlefield, your phone is your weapon. Players organize in 2 teams armed with cell phones with the goal to locate and take pictures of their opponents. The phone compares captured pictures against a database of player faces and awards points for correct hits.

Nevertheless, Stage Two deserve kudos for thinking about fun before technology – and making it happen.

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Marker Tracking

16) AR Quoits
Released by NaPanda in Dec 2009

Toss virtual rings by flicking your finger onto a blue circle (drawn on on a white page). The circle is overlaid with an upright peg. Try to hit the peg. The farther the distance – the higher the points you score.

This was a huge surprise. The app is poorly designed, and it seems like it was put together in a haste. However, this is the only app on the store that actually analyzes the pixels on the screen (looks for the blue circle) and overlays graphics (the yellow upright peg) so it’s perfectly aligned with the circle. Yes it’s blinking, the tracking is far from being robust, and the game play is definitely not much fun…but it’s the closest thing to augmented reality you will  find on the app store in 2009.
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A bunch of other games on the app store claim to be “Augmented Reality Games” as well. They weren’t. But they weren’t fun either, which is where I draw the line. Here’s the list of…

Games that didn’t make the list

Overlaying flying bullets aimlessly on a camera view doesn’t cut it for me. Not even if I have a bunch of switch  weapons to choose from. And yet, such games sprung up like mushrooms after an October rain: MGD (Most Dangerous Game), Assassins FPS by Differentium, iPew by Wumbitz, Firepower by Todd Hopkinson, VRArsenal by Quickdecay, First Person Shooter by Blueriversa, HandsUp by Assaf Waisler (introducing a new weapon – kisses). hiBubble by BorderTown and Snowglobe by Maverick, get a special mention for breaking away from weapons, and  blowing bubbles and snow respectively, instead. Does anyone play these games, or are they just too tempting to build?

Wanted Dead or Alive by Poulet Maison (House Chicken in French) has style. I admit. The sound track sets the expectations for a AAA game – but sending friends photos of my appliances riddeled with bullet holes – isn’t my kind of fun.

Games to inspire Augmented Reality Games

Location-based games could be considered the older cousins of augmented reality games. Together, they could form a very powerful gaming experience. Here are some inspiring location-based games:

iSpy by SplitP is based on an extremely simple yet clever concept: take photos of real world objects and challenge other people to try and find it – it’s all about getting out and experiencing the real world – games alfresco style.

Turf Wars by MeanFreePath is a very ambitious game that takes Zynga’s Mafia Wars to the streets – literally. Nurture a mafia family and gain turf in your hood. Imagine what could happen if added a pinch of AR to this scenario…

Take over real-world territory in your neighborhood with Turf Wars, the new GPS-enabled crime game for your iPhone and iPod Touch! Turf Wars is the massively multiplayer online game where you claim and defend real-world territory from other mobsters.

Parallel Kingdom by PerBlue

Parallel Kingdom is a mobile location based massively multiplayer game that uses your GPS location to place you in a virtual world on top of the real world.

Through this game, you can almost see how MMOs and virtual worlds will look like after migrating from PC screens to the real streets.

Booyah by MyTown – location-based games meet monopoly.

Buy and own your favorite real-life locations. Collect rent when other people check-in to your shops. Upgrade your shops to increase their value.

Eye Hound (GPS) by Counterwinds

Get away from your pursuers in an augmented reality survival. Turn your everyday life environment into a playing field : you’re tracked down by ennemies’ satellites, escape from the area watching over, in the time alloted.

Eye Hound pulls you in with great graphics, sound effects, and promising a unique interaction – but the action is soooo000 repetitive that it wipes out all the positive points. It might be an alternate reality game – but not an augmented one.

Apps to inspire Augmented Reality games

Sometime apps can inspire games as well; watch out for these wanna-be-games apps as they evolve. They look like apps, they talk like apps – but when you do something good like checking into a bar – you get points, badges, or if you’re a frequent patron, you could even become the mayor of your favorite pub. These apps marry social networks with GPS to help you explore your city in new ways.

Foursquare – introduced at SXSW in March 2009: earn points and unlock badges for
discovering new places, doing new things and meeting new people
Gowalla – a more playful take on Foursquare
CauseWorld – same mechanics with a socially responsible spin: points you earn transform into sponsored donations to important causes.

Finally, lets us dedicate a moment to…

Apps that didn’t make it to the app store

Virus Killer 360 by Acrossair

Put a Spell (Developed by Arballoon; Published by Ogmento)

Have you been rejected from the app store? Tell us your story.

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That concludes our review of Augmented Reality games in 2009. Overall, we have reviewed more than 20 AR games, and identified several highlights and a handful of disappointments.

The biggest achievement of the year: tens of thousands of players got their hands dirty with AR games for the first time in history. And the promise is much bigger. Prepare for 10x more games in 2010.

And keep in mind: to make these games 10x more fun, we’ll need better design – not necessarily better technology.

Wanted! Game designers! Game designers! Game designers!

Happy New Year to our devoted readers and contributors. A million thanks to our own Rouli for an amazing coverage of the augmented reality scene. And finally, welcome to our fantastic new author – Tom Carpenter.

2010 will unveil an awesome reality.

Acrossair Augmented Reality Browser Hits the iPhone App Store

Acrossair, one of the pioneering companies in augmented reality on the iPhone, just made it to the iPhone app store with a new app: acrossair augmented reality browser.

Previous apps by Acrossair were task specific: find the Nearest Tube, Nearest Places and Nearest Tweets.

Today, it’s joining the likes of Layar and Wikitude as multipurpose AR browsers. Congratulations.

Let’s take a look at the new browser.

First screen aggregates various information sources such as Panoramio, Stella Artois – LE BAR Guide as well as  Acrossair previous apps such as Nearest Tube, etc. Scroll through the long list by swiping your finger iPhone style.

Once an information source is selected, you get to see the nearest as points of interests (POIs).

The heads up display is minimalistic, with just one pink icon on the top left to access more info – and Acrossair signature “stack” of POIs

.

From the Acrossair site:

The browser uses awesome 3D navigation which you can see as you spin around. There is local data from property companies and big name brands which is represented in an augmented reality view. Holding it flat jumps to a Google maps view and when you spin around so does the browser to make sure you know where everything is in orientated.

What will be Acrossair next steps?

Will they open it for developers? for user generated content?

We’ll have to see how things unfold in 2010 which is promising to be a hot year!

Weekly Linkfest

Before the linkfest, let me share some exciting news. Starting from tomorrow, and throughout the week, I’ll be posting augmented reality predictions for 2010 from top AR luminaries. But wait, there’s more – I’m hoping to harness wisdom of the very smart crowds reading this blog, by putting on a survey were you can vote for your favorite predictions. Hope to see you tomorrow!

And now, as usual, the weekly linkfest:

  • The first AR DevCamp was held yesterday. Thomas Wrobel (can I say our very own Thomas Wrobel?) had an FAQ prepared for the occasion, about the AR wave initiative.
  • On the mobile browsers front – Layar 3.0 is out (also see AugmentedPlanet’s review). I should have really dedicated a post for it. In a nutshell, this latest version, and the presented use-cases are really making Layar much more than just a “browser”. You can create augmented tours, games, and city scapes which is a huge step over just showing the “closest” x.
  • Augment Pro review of Presselite’s Twitter-360, a browser like app that shows you nearby tweets from your friends
  • And AcrossAir is behind “Le Bar Guide” an application created for beer label Stella Artois that lets you find closest bars (serving that beer).
  • Sarnoff presents an augmented reality training system for the US military with virtual baddies. I really want to see a video of that.
  • Augmented reality via Silverlight (Microsoft response to Adobe’s Flash).
  • Laboratory4 is offering the joys of a fashion show right in your own home.
  • Pandemica is another fast paced pseudo AR shooting game for the iPhone.

Weekly quote comes from OneZeroThrice’s piece “Who Is, and Who Isn’t Augmented Reality“(yeah, I gave you the punchline, but you should read the whole article)

if only we, who know the difference between good and crap AR, can be more vocal – if we can start saying what we mean and not be afraid of pissing off the people who make this garbage … maybe we’ll actually save this industry from what happened to Virtual Reality.

And the weekly video is another “augmented” magic trick from Marco Tempest (see the first one here) (via The Future Digital Life):

Have a nice week, and don’t forget to come back tomorrow for a peak at 2010.

Weekly Linkfest

Not going to ISMAR :\. Since going to Florida is not an easy trip for me, I would have like to stay there for more than a couple of days. However, my current workload maje such a vacation impossible. I’m sure Ori and Thomas will do a great work covering it. In the meantime, I’ll take the next few days off from blogging, and will be back with my 200th post (woot!). Hope to see you all at ISMAR Korea!
Now, having done with the excuses, here’s the weekly linkfest:

Articles & Videos

Augmented Reality Browsers:

  • Following Wikitude, media favorite Layar is now on the appstore.
  • Following Yelp, Urbanspoon adds an augmented reality view.
  • Lodestone AR Compass is a browser for the great outdoors. Two bucks and it’s on your iPhone.
  • CiviCast (from CiviGuard) is an augmented reality browser for civil services with a lofty goal – “To guide & protect global civilian populations in the event of a crisis through authoritative & reliable information delivery over mobile communications networks.”
  • Can’t even call it a browser, 3d Compass is just a floating compass for Android.

Other

The weekly video is from the Australian band Lost Valentinos. In order to promote their latest single (Nightmoves) they chose (what a surprise) to use augmented reality. We have seen AR clips before and AR used to promote singles as well (see for example this application for Eminem). However, Lost Valentinos found a simple yet ingenious way to use augmented reality – they shot each band member perform the song on its own, match each one with a marker, and let their fans to compose their own videoclip via AR. As the press release says – “From lead singer Nik performing the song atop a user’s shoulders, to the whole band playing the song at the base of the Eiffel Tower”. Try it yourself over here (and btw, don’t search for nightmoves on Youtube from work).

Have a great week!