Study Confirms Young People Get VR, Old Folks Don’t

Clickbait headline much? Anyway … A new study about VR use in America leads me to an inference that’s entirely unsubstantiated but probably true, anyway. (Trigger warning, Sarcasm ahead, Also a kernel of truth)

Rebecca Hills-Duty, VRFocus:

The VR/AR Insights Consortium, a group that comprises representatives from the likes of Turner, Warner Bros, and the VR Society have released a report in conjunction with Magid the sheds light on consumer use of VR and its various applications. The study was based on results gathered from 2,000 U.S-based consumers. Its headline statistic showed that 22% of VR users have used Netflix VR at some point, compared with the next most popular app, Minecraft VR at 20%.

My eight year-old son plays Minecraft. His grandfather had never heard of it until a few weeks ago, and even then didn’t put the name “Minecraft” together with the game he’s watched his grandson play. Ergo, my sweeping generalization:

Minecraft is probably popular on VR because it’s very popular, period, kids are interested in new tech like VR, and Minecraft is available on the major VR platforms. So when a kid straps in and sees Minecraft advertised on the welcome deck of Gear VR or Vive or what have you, she wants to check it out.

Netflix is probably popular on VR for the exact same reasons, except applied to all ages. I’ll now stretch things a little to make my argument: Kids probably don’t stick around Netflix VR for long because the experience is passive and easily replicated outside of VR. Since VR isn’t as popular as smartphones and computers just yet, most households that have a VR rig probably only have one, but have multiple other Netflix-capable devices. So kids’ available VR time is probably scarcer than other available screen time, and they know better than to waste it watching videos they can watch later on the boring old iPad.

Ergo, they do other, more VR-specific stuff. Like Minecraft, which is a little overwhelming and mind-blowing in VR (at least the first few times you try it).

But grown-ups who try VR are less adventurous and (just to wrongly generalize a little more) more easily disoriented and made nauseous. So they stick to what they know: Reruns of Frankie and Grace made new again by the excitement of googles, earphones, and their choice of digitally rendered luxe media room backdrops.

Just a theory.

 

AR & VR Breathe New Life into Books and Board Games

When the first iPad came out, people talked about how tablets would revolutionize old game formats. Families could sit around a table and play anything from Go Fish to Monopoly without needing to store shelves full of board games. iPad versions of the games could leverage players’ individual iPhones to digitally replicate game pieces: Tile racks in Scrabble, money and deeds in Monopoly, even hands in card games could all be managed via touchscreen. The possibilities were endless.

Digitized board games haven’t exactly set the world on fire, but they are still kicking around. In the build-up to the public release of Apple ARKit and other next-gen AR/VR platforms, developers have been showing glimpses of what board games, childrens’ books, and other family entertainment will look like in a mixed-reality world.

Twitter user  posted this video clip of Echelon, an AR strategy game being developed for Microsoft Hololens by Helios Interactive. The clip speaks for itself, showing the potential for immersion when a table full of players all strap into the same virtual world for a shared gaming session:

The Wrap‘s Sean Burch spent some time with Los Angeles-based VR studio Within, getting a glimpse of their vision for the future of childrens’ books. Burch came away impressed, to say the least:

[Within CEO Chris Milk’s] team has been working on an untitled Goldlilocks-themed experience that only needs an iPad and a flat surface to show AR’s potential. Milk — cutting a figure of a taller, more svelte Zach Galifianakis with his pulled-back hair and impressive brown beard — pointed his iPad at a table and started reading along to the story on the screen. Voice activation followed his words and a digital forest began popping up on the iPad, with Goldilocks wandering through trees before heading inside a two-story house.

Admittedly, I was caught off guard by how cool I found the experience — especially since I’m about 20 years older than the target demo. But Within tapped into how AR can create the 21st Century version of a pop-up book, with users able to turn their kitchen table into a fantasy world. “Goldilocks” was a hybrid production — part-book, part-cartoon, and part-video game.

Mixed-reality versions of board games and books will cost far more to produce than their ink and cardboard counterparts. It remains to be seen how the financials will play out for studios like Helios and Within, and if a balance can be struck between developing paradigm-shifting experiences and turning a profit.

Remember, iOS users are accustomed to paying a dollar or two for an app; something like Echelon or Within’s Goldilock’s experience almost certainly would have to cost ten times that (at least!) to make financial sense.

Still, the future of family fun will be interesting to watch as we move from board games and screens to headsets and mixed realities.

Minecraft in AR on iPhone is the End of Everything

Made With ARKit is the best thing to hit Twitter since Joel Embiid. If you don’t follow pro hoops, it might just be the best thing ever.

iOS11 with ARKit is still a few months away from leaving Beta, but developers are already cranking out some really cool examples of what’s possible with Apple’s new API for Augmented Reality. Some of them are practical. Others, like Minecraft, are just plain awesome:

Life-Size Super Mario Bros. is All the Reason You Need to Buy a Hololens

Super Mario Bros meets Augmented Reality in this crazy life sized first person experience! I recreated the iconic first level, dressed up as Mario and then played it in Central Park (NYC). Built in Unity3D for the Microsoft Hololens. This video was recorded entirely through the hololens with no post production.

Check out more of my projects and get in touch at shek.it

– Abhishek Singh via YouTube

Abhishek’s website is dope, too.

I Finally Played Pokemon Go, Just in Time for Its Big Anniversary Update

TechCrunch’s Greg Kumparak published a deep dive on the big Pokemon Go update that started rolling out as I wrote this post. The update will focus largely on new gyms, cooperative raids, and new items, and Kumparak’s preview is well worth a read if you’re at all interested.

This was my favorite part of the piece, if only for the masterful five-word hyphenation that mashed up ‘ephemeral’ with ‘fairly epic’:

Done right, gym raids will call experienced players together to one spot (and one, that if it’s survived as a Gym to this point, presumably doesn’t mind having Go players show up randomly) and team up for an ephemeral-but-hopefully-fairly-epic experience.

As Kumparak points out, Pokemon Go took the world by storm last Summer. Whether or not publisher Niantic can revive the app’s success in a single code push remains to be seen (Kumparak says No, and he’s almost certainly right). No matter what, though, the app’s initial blockbuster success was a milestone for Augmented Reality.

I finally tried Pokemon Go out for myself this past weekend. I should say, I watched my eight year-old try it out. Three things stood out to me about the experience:

  1. The concept is great, just like we all observed last Summer.
  2. The graphics aren’t particularly impressive, particularly when digital imagery is being overlaid atop a live camera feed. But so what? They’re good enough to make the game flow, and the game is catchy enough and good enough to keep people coming back for more. Again, we saw this last Summer. And I’m experiencing it first-hand now with my son.
  3. AR on phones works precisely because people already have phones, already know how to find and download new apps to their phones, and already carry their phones everywhere.

That last point explains as well as anything why AR is poised to go mainstream and why VR is more likely to find success in b2b, site-specific consumer experiences, and along similar lines as PC and console gaming. At least in the short term.

It also explains why ARKit is such a big deal. Hundreds of millions of iOS users are about to be nudged ever so gently into the land of AR. And many of them probably won’t even know it’s happening.