Want to live inside a video game? Now you can
In the basement of a nondescript Chinese office building, a startup is building software that will turn the entire world into one big video game.
Augmented reality is on the verge of breaking into the mainstream, and Clever Robot Labs is on the bleeding edge of that revolution. The Shanghai-based company is building a cross-platform spatial recognition and understanding, AI-based revisualization layer that utilizes SDKs like Project Tango, ARCore and ARkit.
In English, that means they're building the software that will let digital objects move around in the real world — or at least appear to on your smartphone. More to the point, they're making it so that a digital character can appear to move around naturally in the real world. And, that has the potential to radically change how we play video games.
"It can be hard to explain because it's such a new category," Matt Orlich, CEO and co-founder at Clever Robot Labs said. "But we're taking a toy-based approach to augmented reality."
In the not-too-distant future, the company sees a world where gaming is no longer tethered to a computer or video game console, but instead is played in the real world. As part of that, they are planning on working with toy manufacturers to create physical objects that will interact with digitally rendered objects that exist in the real world.
A zombie game could be set in your living room, with augmented reality zombies attacking you on your couch. Your job could be to shoot them using a plastic weapon mounted to your smartphone.
This all sounds a bit far-fetched, but you'll likely be seeing games like this sooner than you'd think. The new generation of smartphones running iOS and Android have augmented reality technology baked into their operating systems. With a newer phone, AR companies can use a phone's cameras to map a room and use its onboard sensors to track how a user is moving within that space. At least part of the reason the iPhone X and the Samsung 8 are bezel-less is that a screen that stretches to the very edges of a phone provides a better AR experience.
Although this technology is nearly at the fingertips of millions of users, the landscape for developers is still unsettled. Clever Robot Labs was founded in the beginning of 2017 and has struggled to know even such simple details as which platform to build their technology on.
The company originally developed on Tango, Google’s AR platform that was released in 2014. However, very few devices were ever released that had the hardware necessary to run Tango. Chances are, you and your buddies aren't running around with a Google Peanut, Google Yellowstone, Lenovo Phab 2 or an Asus Zenfone AR.
"Tango-enabled devices haven't really taken off," Orlich said. "And it's looking like they may not ever take off."
But, you probably do know a couple of people using an Apple device. Earlier this year the company announced ARKit, which allows developers to build AR software that takes advantage of the sensors on millions of already existing iPhones. Google users are not left out either, and the company released a preview of their own AR reality platform, ARCore, on August 29th, which comes baked into Android's Nougat operating system.
Clever Robot Labs, for their part, are busily developing their technology to work on both ARKit and ARCore. They're a young company, but it's not hard to get excited for their vision — especially if it means shooting zombies in your living room.