After recent hype surrounding the topic of VR headsets including Sony's Project Morpheus and Oculus Rift, visual computing company 13th Lab has debuted the world's first augmented reality gaming platform which turns the real world surrounding of the player into a first person shooter gaming zone - using your smartphone - at GDC this week.
The project, dubbed 'Rescape', is a combination of a hardware game controller, in a shape of a gun-like holder, and software for a smartphone. The smartphone uses a fisheye lens attachment with the purpose of widening the field of vision (FOV) and is combined with a technique called SLAM (Simultaneous Localisation and Mapping) pioneered by NASA for use mainly in robotics. SLAM in this context will be used to track movements and digitise the environment around gamers whilst overlaying a canvas of their choice and allowing them to interact remotely with other players. Please check out the video below, showing the system in action:
"We call this reality gaming, where you actually map a game on top of your real world walls and ceiling," said co-founder of 13th Lab, Petter Ivmark, during a demo at GDC, reports ArsTechnica. "There's a process where you have to walk around the space once, then the software understands how it looks, makes a simple 3D reconstruction of the space, then that's used to map a game on top of that.... From the user's perspective, it's going to be a minute in your apartment walking around it, and then you're going to be able to play. And that can be translated from one game to the next, you don't need to do it over again."
The company has launched a Kickstarter crowdfunding project as it aims to pass the project through as many developers as possible in hope that they will add Rescape support for existing titles but also develop new games for the device. 13th Lab seems to favour the idea of licensing the technology to gaming studios over selling directly to the consumer. If funded successfully, the first prototypes are said to be shipping next month whilst a wider launch to all backers will be in August and September.
Sadly, the first manufacturing batch will only support iPhone 5, iPhone 5S, iPhone 5C and experimental support for the iPhone 4S. However, the company does have future plans to launch Android features although no timeline has been set.