Augmented Reality is the Future of Gaming
By 2020, the global Augmented & Virtual Reality market will be worth $ 150 million. With IT tycoons like Google and Facebook investing huge money into AR/VR projects, the forecast seems quite realistic. So far, augmented applications have been successfully used in retail (the virtual IKEA catalogue), healthcare (AccuVein), education (Anatomy 4D) and finance (ATM locator solutions). However, the AR promo video published by Magic Leap is still the closest we can get to augmented reality in gaming. Such notable IT experts as Andy Rubin (Android co-founder) and David Georgeson (Sony) claim augmented reality will change the industry beyond recognition. What makes them think so?
Virtual Reality vs Augmented Reality gaming
AR software places 2D pictures, animations and videos on top of a digital monitor and subsequently transforms user environment. Such applications run on PCs, smartphones, tablets and wearable devices. While Virtual Reality opens the door to a totally new (and sometimes confusing!) world, AR programs supplement familiar surroundings with non-existent objects.
Although in 2015 mobile game apps outperformed consoles by almost $ 4 billion, augmented and virtual reality games are usually played on bigger screens. However, enhanced gaming experience is not limited to monitors as such. Why use screens when we have wearables? Mark Zuckerberg who invested $ 2 million into the Oculus Rift headset believes VR is the next big thing after mobile. The gadget is scheduled for 2016 release, as well as the castAR augmented reality glasses.
Both VR and AR technologies have great market appeal, but it doesn’t make them interchangeable. The key problem with virtual reality is the realization of the concept. VR is meant to replace the real world with an imaginary one, which requires high-quality visuals and next-generation computing skills. It remains to be seen whether Oculus, Sony and Valve will be able to meet gamers’ VR expectations.
Also, virtual reality headsets are rumored to be dangerous since they occupy the entire visual field. Absorbed in a game, users can walk into things and hurt themselves. According to Rony Abovitz, CEO at Magic Leap, stereoscopic 3D devices may even cause neurologic deficits, although there’s no evidence to back up the statement.
Augmented Reality vendors are less ambitious. They take advantage of the tried-and-true technology and simply inject virtual objects into the real world.
What does an Augmented Reality game look like?
Last year Microsoft published a promotional video to showcase its latest augmented reality gadget – the famous HoloLens which is also expected to ship in 2016 (it’ll be a lucky year for gamers, right?). Microsoft fixed some of the flaws found in HoloLens prototypes – namely, expanded the previously limited field of view and improved hologram resolution. The device generated mixed to positive reviews, with multiple experts saying the visuals still “fill” the headset’s screens rather than complement user environment (it looks like this; while in motion, some parts of the holograms simply disappear).
It’s surely fine for e-commerce and educational AR applications, but what about games?
Magic Leap, the mysterious company that raised $ 1 billion in venture funding, is expected to launch its Digital Lightfield augmented reality platform “soon”. The startup hasn’t revealed much detail on their project, saying that they added some features to the platform, including sensors, software, hardware and “a few things that just need to remain a mystery”. However, they shared several videos which give us a glimpse of what’s to come, and (so far!) I like what I’ve seen.
Magic Leap AR Gaming
An insight into mobile Augmented Reality
Although AR applications provide better gaming experience on big screens, you can actually find several mobile augmented games on Google Play and App Store. The CamGun app is a simple shooter which integrates pictures of different weapons into a smartphone camera feed. Another example is the SpekTrek Android application for potential ghostbusters. Yet, it is the Pokémon GO app we’re all excited about.
Pokémon partnered with Niantic and Nintendo to design an AR mobile game and a wearable gadget for true Pokémon lovers. The app allows you to track, catch and trade little monsters across the globe. Pokémon GO is a GPS-enabled program which places relevant content on top of a screen. The application also employs a payment system for in-app purchases. Scheduled for 2016 release (again!), Pokémon GO can be the first step towards true augmented reality.
Pokémon GO Augmented Reality App
Why Augmented Reality is not game yet?
Judging by the number of AR-related articles floating around the Web, Augmented Reality games should’ve been the next Cloud. How come they are not (yet)?
- Tricky custom application development. The major challenges associated with AR software development include inaccurate content placement, interoperability problems and single user-oriented experience;
- Gadget issues. Some experts (with Apple’s design chief Jony Ive among them) think face is “the wrong place” for wearables, and it may be the key reason why Google Glass flopped. What is the perfect device for augmented reality gaming if not a headset? The answer is yet to be found;
- Data security. As of now, there are no universally adopted data security standards for AR and IoT applications.
The most remarkable AR gaming solutions will hit the market in 2016, so it’s too early to make forecasts. Still, it’s the integration of high-quality visuals into user environment we’ve been waiting for so long. No matter how realistic the experience will be, we already love augmented reality.