Augmented reality to put simply is reality that has been augmented/enhanced with extra digital graphics like simple text overlays that provide additional information etc. Augmented reality allows users to interact with and manipulate their surroundings. It also often makes users who feel they are experiencing futuristic technology seen only in books and movies in real life and thus invokes excitement as well as childlike enthusiasm. While it has been around for a while, augmented reality has recently become mainstream with tech giants like Apple and Google pushing it forward with technologies like ARKit (Apple) and ARCore (Google). All you need is your smartphone with the latest iOS or Android versions installed and you’re good to experience the myriad of augmented reality applications now available. There are over 2,000 AR apps available in iOS App Store and another 200-plus on Google Play. With few breakout hits, many are wondering what the killer use cases for AR will be. We can examine the growth of the mobile app ecosystem to better understand how mobile AR will evolve.
About the application
AR Runner is an augmented reality game that encourages the user to get moving wherever they are. All the user needs to do is open the app, select the size and shape of the playing field they want, and the game will then scan the area chosen and set up the course. From there the user needs to look at their phone's screen and run through the checkpoints suggested as quickly as they can. The game is currently available on the iOS App Store for free. The free version of the game includes three modes - Normal, 30 Second Rush, and Enemies. The 30 second rush mode ask to user to hit as many checkpoints as they can in 30 seconds where as the Enemies mode asks the user to avoid additional enemies while hitting the checkpoints. The premium version of the game unlocks two new field shapes, a larger sized field and two additional modes – one of which is Wall Punch where the user must punch through hoops to advance. The game also allows the user to play in Single-Player mode or with others by passing the device to others. Each game run is also timed and is compared with all the users of AR Runner. The users can check where they stand against all the other users on any of the 32 leaderboards for the game. Users can also use the Challenges that offers 60 handcrafted challenges you can choose from.
I chose to write about AR Runner because I though it was an interesting and novel game. It encourages users to go outdoors to play it. The game involves quite some physical activity which is great. Nowadays, regular day to day activities do not require a lot of physical exertion and people often lead sedentary lifestyles. Any application/game that motivates users to get out of their house and enjoy the amazing outdoors has a win in my book. I also liked the simplicity of the game. All you have to do is run and hit/activate the checkpoints. There are no complicated instructions or maneuvers. Anyone can play it – from a 5-year-old child to a 70-year-old grandma – as long as they are able to hit/activate the checkpoints. The game also has enough variations that it is not boring. The user can always try and beat other users or even themselves in the past. I thought it was the kind of a game that can be played with friends and family while laughing and having fun.
Why is it a good use of AR?
AR Runner is a great example of how augmented reality can be done well in a smartphone application. I believe one of the primary purposes of AR is to encourage users to interact and manipulate their environment. AR Runner does this seamlessly. As mentioned earlier, it augments the user’s surroundings with a course they are required to pass through. The checkpoints themselves are simple and blend well with the environment. The application gamifies the task of running/exercise and thus encourages physical activity which is great. AR Runner allows the user to look at their surroundings in a new and different light. It enables the user to use their surroundings more effectively.
The main issue that AR Runner faces is users hurting themselves and others by looking at their phone and running around. Since the whole augmented game can be seen only through the phone this is something that cannot be avoided but it’s something the users can be cautious about. They should take care as to not focus completely on what’s being shown on the phone screen and be aware of their movements and surroundings. One way this issue could be solve is by having the game on a glasses-like device rather than a smartphone. That way the user could see both seamlessly and wouldn’t get hurt.
Another minor issue I see right now is that the game is available only on iOS phone. This means it has limited users (a large number but a limited nonetheless). If the game was available on more platforms like Android, it would have a larger userbase and would be more accessible. I’m sure the people behind the game must have thought about it and have a plan to combat the same
In conclusion I would like to say that I’m really excited about the new generation of smartphones and other technologies that are making Augmented reality mainstream. It is great to see new, interesting content being created every day. I think in a few more years, we will have hardware (for e.g. Glasses that are better than Google Glass) that will let us do this without needing a handheld device and that’s the future I’m looking forward to.