Friday, 27 November 2015

Mediated Reality... Augmented Reality... Hmmm....

I may be a bit slow with this (and by maybe I mean I most likely am), but I've just been made aware of Mediated Reality. It's like Augmented Reality, but also the opposite of it.... Here's a definition of Mediated Reality courtesy of Google:

"Computer-mediated reality refers to the ability to add to, subtract information from, or otherwise manipulate one's perception of reality through the use of a wearable computer or hand-held device such as a smartphone." (Wikipedia, 2015)

There's also a slightly confusing (but straight forward enough) website which demonstrates how it would actually work. Here's a link

 So what if we combined Mediated Reality and Augmented Reality to create the ultimate experience? You could use the Mediated side to remove things you don't want to see, and place the things you do want to see in their place. This would actually work perfectly with my Vent character project. Let me show you how...

Here's a picture of the regular vent on its own:


Now what if instead of seeing that plain vent, I wanted to remove it and see a character instead? I could replace the default and put my vent character in its place, creating something like this:


This is exactly the kind of thing that I was hoping to be able to create for my project. The current AR apps are great for projecting 3D models into the real world, but unfortunately they just sit on top of these things rather than serving as a replacement. If we had the ability to actually replace elements with our own, that would be amazing! Definitely something I will be looking into further...

Evolution of Nintendo's AR Cards

Since the first 3DS was released, Nintendo has been shipping each console with a pack of AR cards for use with the system. Here's a picture of the designs in case you're unaware of what they look like:


The '?' card serves as the main form of player interaction, with the ability to pick from either playing a variety of mini games or 'summoning' one of the other cards. As you can see, the other cards feature characters from some of Nintendo's most popular franchises, and scanning any of these cards brings up their respective characters. Here's an image of some of the cards in action:

Considering the 3DS released in 2011, this was a pretty cool thing to pass a few minutes when you first got your system, though I personally find it to be a shame that they were just static models. You could change poses and the size of the models though, so that's pretty cool. 

Luckily for me, though, Nintendo recently released 2 new promotional apps for the 3DS - Photos with Mario and, slightly later, Photos with Animal Crossing. Here are some videos of the two:

These apps are what the original 3DS AR cards started, but with a little extra greatness added in. Now, instead of the models just standing static, they interact with the 3DS's camera - making it look like they're interacting with the player. They can demonstrate different emotions and if you wanted to you could even move them away from the AR card that spawned them (providing the card is still on screen in some way). I think it's great that Nintendo went back and made these cards a little more exciting, as it was a shame that they were so uninteractive when the 3DS first released. That being said, it's not surprising that they were able to add more interesting features to the cards now as AR has developed significantly over the 5 years since the 3DS was released.

AR Cards used in Kid Icarus: Uprising 

Another way that Nintendo have incorporated AR cards into their products is in the game Kid Icarus: Uprising for the Nintendo 3DS. This game had over 150 AR cards in total which could be collected by buying packs of the cards, or through various gaming magazines. Instead of being used like Nintendo's regular AR cards, these cards had the ability to actually interact with each other and battle. Here's a video of them in action:

The only downside is that once the cards are battling, it's more of a case of sitting watching them battle it out - the player can't resume interaction with the game until the battle is over. It would be cool if in future Nintendo could revisit this and have the cards react differently, playing different movesets depending on player inputs. 

Never the less though, this is still super cool! Seeing characters battle it out against each other in the real world is pretty amazing. :)

Sunset Overdrive had cool Advertising

Just stumbled across this cool video of some of the advertising used to promote the XBox One game 'Sunset Overdrive' (which is very fun by the way, you should play it). Check it out:

A bus stop was turned into an interactive transit shelter, with the side panel turned into an Augmented Reality screen displaying monsters and creatures running around the street in front. Here are some screenshots in case you can't watch the video:

The panel interacts with the real world by putting splatters and monsters 'in' the street, with monsters popping up to scare the viewer every now and again. I think this is awesome advertising, and it would be cool to see more video games take this route in their promotion strategies. Just not any really scary ones, please... ;-;

Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Movember Trains

(Thanks to Holly for making me aware of this!)

Did you know that some trains 'grow' moustaches for Movember? Take a look at these:


It instantly made me think - how cool would it be if they integrated some AR for these? You could use an app to scan the moustache (when the train is stationary of course) and it could come to life - growing depending on how far along in the month it is. It could be a cool little advertising campaign for Movember. If any of you Movember reps are reading this - I'd be happy to help out with development. ;)

I just wanted to make a little blog post about it because I thought it was great and it made me smile a lot. Also, if you have some spare pennies, my lovely tutor Josh is still raising money for Movember and it'd be great if you could donate! Here's a link. :)

Friday, 20 November 2015

Why is AR layered?

In all of the Augmented Reality related apps and games that I've found and looked into, they've all had something in common (other than being AR, of course) - they're all layered.

None of these games have taken elements of the real world and brought them to life via AR like I am trying to do with my project, which is... a little scary, but at the same time kinda cool in a sense that I seem to be doing something that's at least a bit original! 

So why is it that these games & apps all layer onto the world, rather than using what is already provided?

The closest thing to using real world elements is Augment - it can detect a 'tracker' in the real world, and then projects something digital onto that. For my undergraduate research I managed to trick the app into projecting onto an actual object rather than a picture tracker, which took some time and was a bit tempermental but it still worked! It's still not quite taking something in the real world and bringing it to life, but it seems to be as close as we can get for the moment.

Kyle Samani of describes AR as something that "should imply not just showing information on the screen, but actually layering the information on top of reality in a spatially intelligent way." and it's the use of the word 'layering' that further proves that this is what people perceive AR as - something to layer ontop of the world rather than something to integrate with it. Personally I think this is limiting the potential of AR as having it integrate with real life objects could bring things to life in new and fascinating ways, so it will be interesting to see if devs stick with layering, or if the potential for real life objects to be brought into AR will be explored.

That being said, Kyle Samani also mentioned that "The first wave of companies are building “glue a phone to your face” applications. These apps are the low-hanging fruit. There is tremendously more value that still waiting to be unleashed." which suggests that there is room for new innovation and ways to use AR that haven't been previously explored.

Thursday, 19 November 2015

Cooperative AR

Something that I find really cool with Augmented Reality is the potential for it to be used cooperatively. There are already some games which use AR in this way that I'm going to list below, so here they are:


I've mentioned Ingress in a previous post, but I'm going to mention it again. Ingress is an AR game developed by Niantic Labs (yes, those guys making Pokemon Go!) that is played through your phone, with the goal being to 'capture' as many portals as possible. There are two factions for players to join and once assigned to a side you can begin to play with other members of your team.

Ingress is great because while you can play it alone, it has such an amazingly large community aspect to it also. There have been meetups all over the globe where players gather to capture portals together, and networks have been set up to help coordinate ways for teams to create larger portals - even if they're in completely different countries.


DRAKERZ-Confrontation is the first Augmented Reality game playable for PC. Each player has their own set of physical playing cards which are then brought to life when scanned by a camera. It's like the real life Yugi-Oh esque card game we always dreamed of! 

Players each have their own cards, and while playing the game via webcam they can see each other's creatures come to life and battle it out on the playing field. It takes the traditional card game but also adds an extra visual thrill to it, which is pretty sweet! 

Run an Empire

Similar to Ingress in the capturing land category; Run an Empire is an iOs and Android game which revolves around running to take control of land in your area. If you run around an area, you capture it - simple! Though be careful - others in your area can also run around that same route and take it from you. 

Newly captured areas are more vulnerable and easier to capture than the areas that have been run around a lot, so it's important that you retrace your steps and go over routes often if you want to keep them as part of your Empire.


Tourality is quite an old AR game in which you can take part in treasure hunts with friends. Teams of up to 40 people can come together and hunt down specific locations that are set on a map via your phone's GPS feature.

The screen shows the location of both the locations you need to go to as well as the locations of other players so that you can see how close your competition is, and the app also records how much time it takes players to reach each landmark. Any achievements are also shown to all participants on their screen, so they'll know when someone has found part of the treasure. 

Tourality doesn't really use Augmented Reality in the same way as the other games listed as it primarily uses GPS, but it is great to see how the us of AR has evolved since this game was made.

I'm going to keep on the lookout for more AR games, but these were just a few that caught my eye for now. :)

The First Augmented Reality Game

While researching the history of Augmented Reality in games, I came across this cool little gem - the first known AR game! 

The game is called ARQuake -  an Augmented Reality version of the popular game Quake which was released in August 2002. It was developed by the Wearable Computer Lab at the University of South Australia and is actually pretty cool all things considered. Here's a video:

Sure, the game is a little rough, but considering it's the first ever AR game (that we know of), I think it's pretty darn cool. It's amazing to see how far AR has come in such a short time, what with the capabilities of the HoloLens and apps such as Augment. 

Here are a few photos to show what the equipment looked like at that time, compared to what AR looks like now:

                                  AR then - developed by the Wearable Computer Lab. 

                                                       AR now - Microsoft HoloLens

Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Faces in Zagreb

Throughout my trip to Zagreb I've not only been making new friends and connections via Infogamer, but also keeping a look out for interesting objects and faces that I can work with. I've managed to find quite a few that I'm happy with, so here's a post showing some of them. :)

I'm also going to be drawing characters for these on my journey home (I'm at the airport waiting for my plane as I'm typing this), so hopefully I'll have a few to show by the end of the day! You may not see them until later, though, because as far as I'm aware my £9 coach doesn't have the luxury of free WiFi. ;)

Saturday, 14 November 2015

Reboot Infogamer Zagreb 2015!

The reason for the slight lack of posts this week is because I'm in Zagreb, Croatia for Infogamer - a huge gaming event held by Reboot magazine for games companies big and small. It's a yearly event which runs over 5 days and you can find out more about it here if you're interested!

Here are some photos:




I have way more but they're on my phone and I can't send them over at the moment...

I have a pass for the full 5 days, which means I was lucky enough to get into the expo when there weren't that many people around - providing a great opportunity to talk to some Indies and get some sound advice! 

Some of the best advice I was given was:

  • Try and replicate your favourite game in your chosen engine - by trying to recreate what you love and what you know you'll know what's working right and what isn't, and that way you'll learn the engine better by trying to get specific things to be like what you already know
  • Always work as a team on game mechanics; never have one person working on them, always get input from all team members
  • Be open minded about change in design - games will never be the exact same as the concept that you originally had. Embrace changes and the idea that some mechanics will/won't work out, it'll be better for your game in the long run so don't try and avoid it! 

I've also had the opportunity to talk to some really great Indies who I'm going to mention below. I'd really recommend checking them out - they're lovely and extremely talented and I had so much fun playing their games. :) 

Mini Bang by Mad Head Games 

I fell in love with this game from the second I saw it across the room. The art style is fantastic, it has an interesting charm to it that I just couldn't pass up, and I really don't regret it. 

The game isn't out yet so I only got to play a short demo, but what I did play was fun, entertaining and enjoyable. The art style is the kind that I have always looked up to in a sense that it's bright and full of character, so it was incredibly inspiring to get to play this. They do have a Facebook page for the game here, so if you're interested in keeping up with the game as it gets developed I'd suggest you head over there and give it a like - I have! 

Flight of the Penguin - Sock Puppet Games 

I think out of all of the Indies I talked to at Infogamer, Sock Puppet Games are the ones I have to thank the most. I spoke to two lovely members of the team (who came to showcase their game from Oslo, Norway!) and from the second I said hello they were warm and welcoming and happy to answer any questions I had or any advice I asked for. I even went back a second day and had another great chat, so if you guys are reading this - thank you so much! 

Their game - Flight of the Penguin - is a frustratingly difficult yet addictive side scroller in which you play as a penguin, strapped into a rocket, trying to avoid explosives. Now I'm not very good at this kind of game and it showed, but despite that I still enjoyed playing it over and over. The game is still in development (though they hope to release it soon!) and if you'd like to keep an eye on how it goes I'd recommend you follow the guys on Twitter here. They're super friendly and great to talk to, so if you get a chance to say hi I'd really suggest doing so. :) 

CloudFall - Mood Oven    
The last game I'm going to mention in this post is called CloudFall by an Indie team called Mood Oven. In CloudFall you play as a cloud, but can also turn said cloud into a whole bunch of elements. As with Mini Bang, I was immediately drawn to this game because of the art style, and I'm happy that I stopped by because it's a charming game with a lot of great mechanics. CloudFall is still in development, but if you do want to follow as it progresses then here's a link to their website. 

I think it was important for me to write about these games and experiences because they all provided me with inspiration. I can't wait to get stuck back in and creating, and these games are showing me that this is what I want to do with my life. I still have another day of Infogamer left, as well as more to write in future posts, so I'm looking forward to sharing more with you. :)

Tuesday, 10 November 2015

More Augmented Reality things!

I probably should have waited before making that first blog post because not even 10 minutes later I've found more super amazing AR creations! This time it's Magic Leap who are working on this pretty incredible Augmented Reality app that combines social media with video games. Here's a video:

I also came across this... interesting video of a man who used AR to create a 50 foot Titan. I'm 99% sure he used Augment to create this because of the use of the tracker and the way it projects the model, so I'm going to have to create an AR character from space or something to top this. No further explanation needed, just watch:

Moving back to Sony, I also discovered a project that Sony is working on involving AR. There's an article here explaining them in a bit more depth, but here are two videos of the tech demos:

The first video shows some characters projected into the room interacting with different types of lighting. This is the first time I've seen anything like this so it's pretty great to see the silhouette turn into a full colour character, and then to see them interact with the lighting. It's similar to what is already around in terms of them just being characters projected into a space, but it's the fact that the lighting can be changed that makes them that bit cooler. :)

The second - and in my opinion more impressive - video is of a man pouring water between two 'bowls', which are projected from two separate AR cards. I just find this totally incredible because it's the first time I've seen it be possible to have these things actually interact with each other. It's also pretty amazing that the water literally pours from one to the other - it doesn't just disappear in one and appear in the other.

Then the next AR game I found is called 'Monsters Multiplayer', an AR game that you project onto a game board. Here's a video of it:

The quality isn't great but the concept itself makes up for it! A lot of the AR things that I have come across revolve around bringing video games into the real world but none of them have covered board games before - like Monsters Multiplayer does. Being able to create your own characters and bring them into custom board games could really see them take a new direction in terms of concept and how board games are played. I'm excited to see what the future holds for AR being used in this way. :D 

Sunday, 8 November 2015

Microsoft HoloLens

I'm seemingly 7 months late to discover this but I've just come across Microsoft's HoloLens project and I'm in awe! For anyone who (like me) wasn't aware that this was a thing, here's the video:

The Microsoft HoloLens actually fits in perfectly with my project because while I've mainly been using Augment, this video shows how that can be expanded on and used to create even more incredible things in the real world through the virtual one.

I can just imagine it - using the HoloLens to detect a character in something you see, and then having that character come to life and interact with the space around you. It'd be so much cooler being able to watch it go around instead of having to hold it on your phone!

I just wanted to make a quick blog post about this because I think it's incredible and will be important for my research, so here it is. :)

Friday, 6 November 2015

Anthropomorphic Research (pt 3 - TV)

Part 3 of my research in this area is dedicated to Anthropomorphic characters in TV. 

My favourite example (and the one I'm going to start off with) is Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends.

                                                             (FanTheories, 2015)

One of the main characters in the show - Coco, is literally designed based on a desert island. Her body is the wreckage of an aeroplane and her head is a palm tree, with her mouth being a deflated life raft.

There are hundreds of characters shown throughout the show, with countless designs being based on inanimae objects. Sponge characters, slime characters, anything you can imagine is likely to have been shown at some point. 

See what I did there? ;)

The Amazing Adventures of Gumball

                                                        (KnowYourMeme, 2014)

Also shown on Cartoon Network, The Amazing Adventures of Gumball features characters made from all kinds of different things. In the picture above alone there is a piece of toast, a banana, some potatoes, a cactus, as well as several other characters.

The difference between Foster's and Gumball is that Gumball tends to use actual images of items for some characters, creating a completely different style. As you can see from the image the banana and the slice of toast are both made from photos of the objects, while other characters remain illustrations. This change in style makes them more interesting and gives more diversity to the characters, and it's interesting to see how the styles together give off different feelings for different characters. This is something I would quite like to look into for my own research - how would my characters look in the real world if they had a more illustrative style? Would they have the same effect and be as believable?

Adventure Time


                                                           (Playbuzz, 2015)

Another one of my favourites :D Adventure Time is just one great big Anthropomorphic party. Characters made of food, rocks, bugs, clouds, anything you can think of and beyond is probably there. I love Adventure Time's character designs because though some of them are kinda weird, they still make sense..? I shouldn't look at a giant Bouncycastle Princess or a character made from a human heart and think oh cool that works, but they do. Adventure Time teaches me that  anything can be a character, and I find that really inspiring. Thank you Adventure Time. <3

I'm going to add more of these as I come across them, and there will be some that I'm forgetting but I think the 3 I've listed are good examples to start off with. Thanks for reading!  

Anthropomorphic Research (pt 2 - Film)

In my last post I talked about the use of Anthropomorphism in video games, and in this post I'll be focusing more on the use of it in film (with TV to follow). I was going to combine Film & TV but looking back on this post there's already a bit too much, so I'll have to split them. 

When I think about Anthropomorphism in film, I immediately think of Pixar. So many of their films contain characters in this area and so many of them are close to my heart. Just some of my favourites are as follows:



                                                   (IconArchive, 2008)

This little guy stole my heart from the second I saw the first animated trailer that he was featured in. He's also conveniently a robot, so made of manmade materials - just like my current project! Hooray! 

It's a huge goal of mine to be able to insert the amounts of personality that WALL-E has into my own characters, and he has been a source of inspiration for me for a long time. 

Cars - Luigi & Guido
                                                       (Snipview, 2014)

Though most people I've talked to about Cars didn't really like it, I actually enjoyed it a lot. I love the way that Pixar brought them to life by using the windshield as eyes and the various lights and bumper features as the rest of the face. Luigi and Guido in particular are my favourites simply because of how much personality they have. They make me smile. :D  

The Blue Umbrella

                                                          (Youtube, 2013)

Moving onto Pixar shorts here, but arguably the most relevant of the films listed so far is The Blue Umbrella. I could talk for ages about how amazing this is and I have already mentioned it in a previous blog post, but I wanted to talk about it again. 

The Blue Umbrella is packed with different characters made of buildings and pipes and all kinds of things that you see every day. I can't watch it without feeling completely inspired and it has been a big inspiration for what I look for when I'm looking for faces in the real world. 

Lava - Uku & Lele

                                                       (cuteasafox, 2015)        

Then finally in the Pixar list is another short - Lava. I mean come on, it's about singing volcanoes who find each other and live happily ever after, what's not to love? I remember watching this in the cinema and being in awe at how clever the character designs are. This is the type of character design that I aspire to be able to make, and I'll continue to watch this short to help me get there. Even if the song does get stuck in my head for annoying periods of time...

Regular Disney are great for Anthropomorphic characters too. Here are some examples...

Beauty & The Beast - Mrs Potts, Chip, Lumiere, etc...

                                                   (SideKickDumpling, 2015)

Beauty and the Beast is a classic for Anthropomorphic characters. It covers both animals (Beast), as well as inanimate objects like Mrs Potts, Chip, Lumiere, etc. These characters are all loveable and unique, showing that regardless of what they're made of, inanimate objects can be loveable if designed right. 

Alice in Wonderland - Curious Oysters, Card Soldiers, etc...

                                                         (1Zoom, 2015)

Alice in Wonderland is a goldmine for Anthropomorphic characters. From the Curious Oysters and Flowers to the Card Soldiers, it's packed with characters. It's also great that the Tim Burton version is around too because we get to see the same characters but with a different twist.

Aladdin - Magic Carpet

                                                         (dettoldisney, 2011)

Then finally I'm going to mention Aladdin, simply because of how much character they managed to give to the Magic Carpet. He has no face and his only real 'limbs' are the tassled corners of his body, but he's easily one of my favourite Disney characters. I love how you can tell the emotions that he's feeling based on his posture - it really shows that facial features aren't necessarily required in character designs and that posture can contribute a lot.

That's all for film, now we move onto TV... 

Anthropomorphic Research (pt 1 - Games)

Is it just me or is that word a real pain to spell? Anthropomorphic. Anthroroflskjdglkfsd.

As the title suggests, I've been doing some research for my project in the form of Anthropomorphism. For anyone who doesn't know, Anthropomorphism is "the attribution of human characteristics or behaviour to a god, animal, or object." (credits to Google for that nice little description). 

Now games have a wealthy amount of these characters, with this nice little webpage here listing just a few of them. You've got games from Spyro, to Legend of Kay, over to the more 'realistic' games like The Elder Scrolls series, but here's my problem - most of these games feature Anthropomorphic characters in the forms of animals. Which is great but for my project I am focussing on Anthropomorphic characters in the form of inanimate objects (for example the little air vents and light switch characters that I've been making). This makes my search a little bit more tricky.

There are some games that use this kind of character - for example Amanita Design's 'Machinarium' features Berta and Josef (pictured below); two charming little characters made out of old metal parts. 

                                                           (Amanita-Design, 2015)

 Also in the metal spectrum is Chibi-Robo! (pictured below), developed by Skip ltd, though rather than being made of old metal he is a bit more new and sparkly.


                                                             (Nintendo, 2015)

There are also Anthropomorphic characters who are made of inanimate objects that aren't metal, though because for now I'm working with characters made of metal and other manmade materials, these are the types of characters I will be focussing on. 

These are just some of the Anthropomorhpic characters in games, however, so the next blog post will be covering a broader scope with characters from film/tv and possibly books. :)