Top 10 augmented reality demos that will revolutionize video games

Augmented Reality (AR) has the potential to do something parents can’t: free gamers from their couches and usher them into the real world, to play.

***UPDATE***if you find this interesting – check out the recent post Top AR Games of All Time.

Here is my countdown of the top 10 best AR demos poised to revolutionize video games:

10. Human Pac Man

When Dr. Adrian David Cheok (NUS) wanted to create an exciting augmented reality game, he chose to remake the first video game to ever introduce a character – the legendary Pac Man. Cheok literally stepped into Pacman’s shoes in this first-person-shooter-like real world game.

9. Come Out & Play

In 2006 the Come Out & Play Festival turned New York City into a playground for a weekend, then did the same for the city of Amsterdam in 2007. Hundreds of players gathered to play dozens different Big Games across each city.

None of the games played in the festival made it to my top ten list – individually. They fell short of stretching the interactivity between real and virtual. But as a group – they reminded us that playing games outdoors can be fun, and technology can make it even funner.

8. Second Life Avatar Enters the Real World

Tobias Lang and Blair MacIntyre (GA Tech) give us an extraordinary glance at what happens when the virtual world “leaks” into the real world. No, they didn’t use a green screen as you can see behind the scenes. Is it a hint for some of us to ditch Second Life and augment our First…?


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. Peter Whatanitch of W2Pi (creator of the game) explains how it will work. It could become quite an experience as staged in the Lumix Battle commercial.

6. Shadow Monsters

Phil Worthington is an artist that injects coolness into augmented reality.

“Magical monsters appear from shadows cast by the hands of participants, reacting to gestures with sound and animation. Wolf like creatures, birds and a rastafarian are among the characters that speak and squeek as imaginary mouths open and close. Shadow Monsters is an intuitive and magical experience for young and old alike to play with body posture for creating crazy narratives.”

5. AR Grafitti by DAIM

Artist DAIM creates virtual 3D graffiti floating in space in his latest art project “Tagged in Motion” of NextWall .
What if everyone could overlay reality with their own virtual creation?

4. CARCADE: In-Car Video Game

Andreas Nicolas Fischer and team suggest to take advantage of the fast changing scenery experienced by car passengers – and turn it into a video game (remember Gondry’s Star Guitar Video Clip?). Could be a great way to pass time. I’d call it: “Are we there yet..?”

3. Total Immersion at Demo ’07

Probably the most commercially successful company that specializes in augmented reality, Total Immersion delivers the best live demos in this domain – with a French accent. They have also featured in CES 2008 keynote by Intel’s CEO Ottelini.

2. Roku’s Reward

This concept* video shows the potential of augmented reality utilizing today’s technology:
  • A handheld camera device,
  • live video overlaid with 3D graphics,
  • computer recognition – identifying real life objects,
  • positioning and acceleration sensors,
  • virtual objects interacting with reality,

…wrapped up in a fantasy narrative make up this yet-to-be-developed game.
*According to Phil Stenton (HP Labs, UK): “Roku remains a demo film. We haven’t signed up with anyone to create the game yet.”

…And the top demo is…

1. Rainbows End by Vernor Vinge

Though delivered in words only, this “demo” paints the farthest vision for augmented reality so far. Everything else you’ll see on this topic will look like excuses: “sorry, we don’t have that technology yet…”
Yes, but do you have the imagination?

“There was something familiar about this prey. It was young and clever looking … a newborn from Juan’s own design! And that meant its Mommy would be nearby. Juan said, “You know, I don’t think –”
“The Problem Is, None Of You Think Nearly Enough.” The sound was premium external, like sticking your head inside an old-time boom box. Too late, they saw that the tree trunks behind them grew from yard-long claws. Mommy. Drool fell in ten-inch blobs from high above.
This was Juan’s design scaled up to the max.”
Read it on Google Books.
Didn’t make the list…
* You may ask how come I left out another classic remake: AR Quake. Well, this remake is indeed played outdoors, but let me ask you this: does it add much to the original experience of that first person shooter?
* How come I am ignoring what some call “the future of books” such as EyeMagic Book or WizQubes? Is it really that different than manipulating 3D characters on the computer screen?
* Daniel Wagner, a major force behind recent AR innovation, may be disappointed that his pioneering handheld AR game the Invisible Train didn’t make it. No hurt feelings; it’s a great proof of concept, but isn’t it more fun to play with the *visible* train?
* Other educational oriented games such as MIT’s Environmental Detective or U-WIS’s MadCity Mystery certainly beat learning in a classroom – but aren’t they indistinguishable from traditional low tech scavenger hunts?

Can you beat this list? I want to hear from you.