Nerdferno and 2 Other Augmented Reality Games from Georgia Tech

In late June, the establishment of Qualcomm Augmented Reality Game Studio was announced, a partnership between Qualcomm and Georgia Tech’s Augmented Environments Lab, with the goal of “pioneering new advancements in mobile gaming and interactive media“. Six months later, the first crop of mobile based games is coming out of the studio, and this blogger is far from disappointed.

Shotgun Showdown is a two players western styled shooting game which utilizes two $20 bills as an arena/required marker. I wonder whether the winner takes both bills.

If you thought that tracking dollar bills was original, than get ready for Volcano Fever, a game that uses condom wrappers as a marker. It’s more than just a weird artistic choice by the game designer. The goal of Volcano Fever is to teach proper condom use.

I understand the volcano metaphor, but what’s the octopus supposed to symbolize? … Anyway, next is, as promised, Nerdferno, a game that puts you in a God like position, determining the fate of cubicle dwellers. If you looked for original AR content, you’ve found it:

You can read more about these games and others, such as Spintopia and Bug Juice, on the studio’s website, and about previous AR games from Georgia Tech here.

Super Augmented Mario Bros

Mario, probably the best known (fictional) plumber has already appeared in more than 200 games. No surprise that fans imagine an augmented reality game starring him. For example, here’s Youtube user Kain the heartbreaker‘s vision of a Mario game on iPhone 10:

I don’t usually consider projection on buildings augmented reality, but this video from Madrid has a fine twist. Instead of scaling a virtual construction site, Mario fights Donkey Kong on a real building:

Finally, here’s another video coming to us from Madrid, this time from Espada y Santa Cruz Studio. A bit more information can be found here (in Spanish).

AR2D2 – Shoot Down Tie Fighters in Augmented Reality

Post update – the original video was pulled down, but luckily was uploaded again, and some of my questions were answered (in red)

I have so many questions about the next video, and no answers –
Is it real? yes.
Is it an official Star Wars game? probably.
How can I get it? On the Appstore somewhere in mid November. Look for “Falcon Gunner”.

I acknowledge that this game is probably not much better than the lurid Firefighter 360, but I feel compelled to try it out, attracted by some mysterious force.

How Augmented Reality is Changing the World Cup

Coming back from my vacation, I had to catch up with a lot of AR related news. One topic though was so prevalent that I had to write about it in my coming back post. Obviously, I’m talking about the world cup in soccer. No other sports event gained such an attention from the AR community, and here are the results (don’t worry the last few ones are quite good):

Zakumi in FLARToolkit
The good: It seems to be created by a single programmer. Cheers for the initiative.
The god-awful bad: The music. I rather hear vuvuzelas than this one hit wonder.

Kappa’s “We Are One”
The good: The music is better than the previous video.
The bad: It’s in Chinese, so it’s hard for me to tell, but I think you need to download an application to play with it. Hello? This is 2010s, not prehistoric 2009!
Where: http://2010.kappa.com.cn/

Sony Ericsson World Cup Game
The good: You get to be a world famous soccer player while hitting soccer balls with your head in this game created by Total Immersion’s partner CherryPicks.
The bad: World famous soccer players are not necessarily handsome.
Where: http://www.sonyericsson.com.hk/fifa-game/

The world cup in a shopping mall
The good: Nice game, showing there are still some innovative things to do with a marker on a piece of paper. Made by another partner of TI – InterAct 3d.
The bad: Couldn’t they have the same application accessible through a webcam?

Junaio’s virtual soccer field overlay
The good: A brave attempt by Metaio to show game statistics for fans in the stadium in an unconventional way.
The bad: You have to be in South Africa to see it, and no videos are available. I’m a bit skeptic.
More info: http://augmentedblog.wordpress.com/2010/06/24/kick-it-like-augmented-reality/ where you can read about another application assisting you to find a good joint to see the next soccer match.

Zugara’s AR game in a banner
The good: Really cool creative, you need to “head in” corner kicks in this AD for AT&T.
The bad: AT&T. And people looking at you from behind while you’re jerking your head around.
Where: http://www.espn.com

KickBall AR
The good: Much better than AR Boomerang, this is the only mobile application on this list.
The bad: Only available for Samsung’s Bada operating system and the fact that Tom already wrote about it.

If I’ve missed anything (surely there’s a Layar layer for the games, no?), please feel free to add a comment.
So how AR is changing the world cup? Well it’s not, but for my first post in nearly three weeks, I had to try a title inspired by the linkbait generator. Anyhow, the usual “Weekly Linkfest” will return next week and as usual be sure to follow me on Twitter.

Looking for an Augmented Reality Casual Game

Looking at the list of best selling applications for the iPhone, I started thinking (usually a dangerous habit). On the one hand, augmented reality wants to be mobile, and the best avenue for mobile AR we currently have are smart phones. On the other hand, we often imagine augmented reality (and surely AR games) as immersive experiences – if you haven’t seen it yet, checkout Roku’s reward.

The thing is, I believe that currently “mobile” and “immersion” are conflicting goals. Our mobile platforms are way too limited to enable immersion:

  • Battery capacity is very restricted
  • Screen size is quite small
  • Processing power and sensor accuracy are low (but I expect these issues to be alleviated soon)

Even more importantly, most mobile game players are not “gamers”. They don’t have a day to spend in a quest around the city. Users require simple but challenging games which can be played during brakes, while waiting in line or while riding the bus. This also limits us to games that don’t require us to carry much additional resources to be played, such as a boards.

As augmented reality enthusiasts we can ignore those problems, and just wait for them to go away once head-up-displays, powered by fuel cells, become wildly available. But this is a counter-productive approach, and still targets gamers. There is another approach – casual games. They fit the character of most smart phone owners and play nicely on the current available hardware. Most importantly, casual games are amongst the most purchased applications on the various app stores (here’s WSJ covering the phenomenon called Angry Birds).

We need to explore casual augmented reality games. Smart phones are on the brink of making such games plausible (if they aren’t already) but we still have to tackle the hardest problem – designing a compelling gameplay. Obviously, games that only use the camera’s input as a backdrop to a game, such as Firefigther 360, won’t cut it.

I asked on twitter what could such a game be, and skry suggested: “On your daily walk/run, some of the course offers a round of DDR, hopscotch, or calisthenics”. Frogger across real roads is another interesting proposition. What do you think? Will there be an AR equivalent of Tetris, Sokoban and Angry Birds?

To get your creative juices flowing I’ve attached two casual AR games that I really like, though both are not based on smart phones. The first is Carcade, a game you can play while riding a train by students at Berlin University of the Arts. The other is Candy Wars by students of the Augmented Environments lab at Georgia Tech (though it’s cheating a little bit, since it requires additional objects).

Locatory – Play with Gamaray

Editor note: OOPS!
Originally this post was scheduled for early December, but somehow I forgot to publish it. Sorry Locatory guys!
——-

As veteran readers of this blog surely know, official development of Gamaray, an AR browser for Android was terminated, and its code has been open-sourced. Recently I’ve learned about an interesting project by a team from the Open University of the Netherlands, named Locatory, based on Gamaray’s code.

The game’s premise is admittedly not that exciting –

The concept of game is rather easy. Players can compete with each other and gather cards that are hidden in augmented reality. Once a card is taken, it can be dropped at a physical location (figure 3, B). When a card is dropped at the correct location, the player receives a point. (source)

but it’s exciting to see that one can create (semi) augmented reality games in relative ease (especially since Locatory’s own code is freely available). After all, how far is a game such as Locatory from a geo-caching game? If I were a student these days, I would have a go at it (adult life is full of compromises :/).

Learn more here.

ARGO – Learn Go with Augmented Reality

Go. A game with such simple rules, that is surprisingly hard to master. It’s the last bastion of humanity against the rising power of game playing artificial intelligence. And now, there’s a cool projected AR board that will help you hone your skills in the game.
Presented by a group of researchers from Japan and Finland, ARGO uses a projector to show game situations, concepts and problems on top of a regular Go board.

As shown in these modes, the advantage of our approach is to allow players to get information through the original interaction offered by the Go board and the stones. By superimposing information onto the board, players can concentrate on the match at hand or self-training without fragmenting their attention towards an instructional book and etc. This is important to make it possible for the players to allocate enough cognitive resources for recognizing the situations in the game. Using original game items as the basis preserves Ma and traditional look-and-feel, such as distance between players, touch of a wooden board and sound of stones.

I really like they used the stones to control the menus. Nice touch, and a cool project as a whole.

More information here.