Augmented Reality is Full of Zombies

Terrified that invisibles zombies will attack you in your home? Sure, we all are. Now, thanks to the insightful people at the Savannah College of Art and Design in Atlanta (SCAD), you can use augmented reality (AR) technology to see otherwise invisible zombies on your handheld device. Their newest video game, ARhrrr, is a first person shooter (FPS) that allows you to turn a table-top map into a zombie-filled city scape using a nVidia phone. Look for the amazing tech demo video after the break.

ARhrrr...zombies are invading your nVidia phone!
ARhrrr...zombies are invading your nVidia phone!

For those of you new to AR technology, a camera records your environment while a computer mixes this image with pre-recorded 3D designs and then displays them in real-time on your screen. The result is an illusion that you are looking into a hybrid world. Another company, Total Immersion, created interactive baseball and pokemon cards, not to mention a tour of the new Star Trek movie’s starship Enterprise.

SCAD, however, has upped the ante by leaping head-first into the realm of video games. This is where the technology can really thrive. Third-party developers, a dedicated consumer base, and sympathetic technologies could push AR as the next big thing. Several devices, such as the PSP, nintendo DSi, and the iPhone are capable of supporting the technology and are already popular enough to carry the AR video game revolution. That being said, I’m not sure how dependent ARhrr is on the nVidia phone and its new Tegra processor.

The game itself looks fun, if a little shallow. From the safety of your nVidia, you can explore your AR city world, hunting zombies and shooting them by tapping the screen. Save some humans, watch out for zombies throwing stuff at you — pretty standard FPS fare. A real innovation comes with the use of skittles (yes, the real-life candy) as markers on the map for bombs. This is something I might have imagined as a child. It’s a cool twist to the game, and I hope other AR game developers pick up on this synergistic mix of product-placement and AR game-play possibility.

It’s been less than a year since AR really started becoming a noted phenomenon. Now we have a video game. As the progression continues, AR is posed to become a wide-spread industry standard for entertainment and advertising. It’s hard to know, however, if AR will make that leap, or fade into yet another fad. Personally, I hope that augmented reality becomes more realistic, more accessible, and a valuable tool for all kinds of art and communications developers. In the end, it would be great for AR to become something more than just another way for video games to rot our braaaaaaaaiiinnnsss.

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