Most of us first encounter AR technology through our phones, in things like mobile games. While some mobile games are just mobile games, others are signs of bigger things to come. Holoscape is of the second camp.
The Holoscape Mobile Game
Holoscape is believed to be the first massively multiplayer AR game. Everything that we know about the game so far comes from a teaser trailer of footage of the game. The footage was presumably taken during a beta test. The entire game is played using mobile phones.
The game looks like King of the Hill gone mad. Players need to get to and hold positions in the real world. However, other players are trying to stop them. Players challenge each other with in-game weapons, as well as with portals. Portals are placed on geographic locations and spawn digital helpers.
Unfortunately, the teaser doesn’t give us the release date. It only assures us that the game is “coming soon.”
That’s neat and all but it isn’t much. So, why are we so excited? The above might be everything that we know about this game but it isn’t everything that we know about Scape.
Scape, the company behind Holoscape, is a London-based AR technology company. They’re more than that, however.
Scape has developed a cloud-based system that can generate 3D maps of collections of 2D images.
“Don’t we have enough maps of the world?” you may ask. No. Not for advanced applications.
Tools like Google Earth and other basic AR technology applications seem to come close. Using multi-directional cameras, they put you inside of an image but the image is still just 2D. Plus, it doesn’t account for what’s going on in those areas in real time.
GPS systems can give you a real-time view of where you are but still don’t allow for 3D visuals. Some similar systems can even show where you are in relation to other locations or users. Think of that poster-child of AR games, Pokémon Go. However, even Pokémon Go displayed this information on a 2D map.
So, why do we need 3D maps? For some people, the answer is as simple as “so we can play Capture the Flag gone mad with our friends.” However, some people have more ambitious ideas.
Why It Matters
We are constantly moving toward the Internet of Things. IoT is a future in which computers can autonomously communicate with one another. This isn’t always thought of in terms of AR technology, but that’s how Scape sees it.
“Imagine a digital version of the world where machines and devices have an understanding of where they are and what’s around them, opening up limitless possibilities for augmented reality,” reads a release Scape shared with ARPost. “Since 2016, we’ve been building a world-first, sophisticated, image-based 3D map of the world which allows camera devices to understand their surroundings from a single image.”
Right now, machines are pretty good at knowing where you are. A fitness tracker can tell how far you’ve walked without a pedometer. A car can tell you when to turn onto the freeway.
However, your fitness tracker probably can’t tell you where you are in relation to other joggers. Your car probably can’t tell you when you can turn without running into other cars or objects. Although, they’re getting better at this.
This kind of mapping, called “spatial recognition”, is particularly important for AR technology. Understanding the landscape is important to AR apps that place digital objects into the real world. AR apps that change the ways in which we see the world also require spatial recognition.
This kind of technology has existed for a while but it wasn’t something that everyone had access to. Advanced camera technology in mobile devices has helped to get this tech into the hands of all of us. Have you ever adjusted the focus on a selfie? That’s the kind of camera technology required for advanced applications like spatial recognition.
In terms of AR technology, it’s important for precisely placing and appropriately scaling digital objects in the physical environment.
Getting Involved with the Scape SDK
Like just about everyone these days, Scape is leveraging the power of the cloud. This makes it easier for Scape to share content with developers and for developers to share content with Scape.
Scape has already rolled out its 3D map of London for use with AR technology. They’re also working on releasing 3D maps of one hundred other undisclosed cities around the world.
If you’re interested in helping Scape’s mission, or finding a way to meet your mission with Scape, you can. The company recently released their Software Developer’s Kit, called ScapeKit. The SDK works in native iOS, native Android, and Unity platforms for both.
IoT isn’t just about AR technology. It’s also about things like artificial intelligence and machine learning. These were previously pretty significant obstacles for would-be developers. Scape is offering a bridge between these worlds.