It's no secret that I am thoroughly excited about the future of augmented reality. If you have not heard of this concept before, you can familiarize yourself with it through the thousands of videos on Youtube about it. Essentially, it is digital information augmenting your view of the environment around you.
Now, follow me as I share with you the near future of video gaming... and reality.
Here's what we need to build a truly immersive augmented reality video game experience.
- Goggles, glasses or contact lenses featuring augmented reality. Contact lenses may be out of our reach currently, but if we can already fit augmented reality this powerful into our handheld gaming devices or phones, then goggles, or some other form of AR headgear, are already attainable. Because we're wearing these goggles, everything we see will be capable of having an overlay of digital data. The only problem is, augmented reality always needs some sort of card or marker to track. Right?
- PlayStation Vita-like markerless augmented reality. PlayStation's device is actually able to read it's surroundings, placing markers at different points and placing virtual objects in relation to these points. You no longer need to bring a deck of cards with you wherever you go. You can look at a carpet, and your AR goggles will know that it is capable of placing a rubber duck (or anything else) there. But what happens when these objects move? And what happens when real objects are placed in front of the virtual ones?
- Kinect-like depth-sensing cameras. The technology that fixes this issue already exists, and you've heard of it. The Kinect has a depth-sensing camera, so when you want to catch, block or kick a virtual object, you totally can. This is key, as it allows you to interact with virtual objects in a very familiar way, with our hands. These cameras combined with markerless AR create a fully-mapped out digital copy of your physical surrounds and objects, stationary or otherwise. These new objects still won't feel entirely real, though, because any sounds they make will be fed through a pair of cheap headphones, or through speakers in the walls.
- Holophonic sound à la the Virtual Barbershop. Make sure you put on headphones and close your eyes before listening to that clip. It turns out that our sound problem was solved all the way back in 1980. This was recorded in 1983. Yes, it is possible to get more realistic sound through your little headphones than through the most expensive surround sound system on the market today. Headphones can easily fit into your funky depth-sensing, environment-tracking goggles, so you now have the ability to throw a virtual object and hear it hit the wall with extreme realism.
The first application I could see for a system like this would be a virtual paintball-like experience. This type of game would require a very simple controller, all it would require is a trigger-like mechanism. The players first walk through the area they are going to play in to map out the space. Then they play. The space they are playing in can be digitally altered to look like any sort of terrain. Physical barriers can be altered as well, but must still be present so that people don't run into them. The controller can be given a virtual skin of the type of gun you are using. Grenades can be thrown, and will ricochet off of virtual and physical objects. Oh, and because everything is being tracked virtually, you are even capable of seeing through walls, or being invisible yourself.
The most exciting thing about this idea is that it's possible right now. As displayed above, we have all of the required technology. In future posts I will be discussing more specific game ideas I have (AR WoW?), and even a few practical uses for this technology.
What do you envision this technology being used for in the future? Don't hesitate to share your ideas!