Getting Frantic With Augmented Reality
The kids were getting a bit bored and “playful” on a Sunday afternoon and they could do with running off some steam so thinking quickly I remembered an augmented reality game that I had previously downloaded on my HTC Hero. I had been meaning to give it a go and this sounded like a perfect opportunity.
If you have never played an augmented reality game on a mobile device it uses the onboard camera, GPS, digital compass, and some clever logic to understand your location and viewpoint using GPS and the digital compass, take images of where you are through the onboard camera, and overlays information before presenting everything back on the screen – in near real time.
The game we tried is called SpecTrek, which is an augmented reality ghost hunting game, and a Lite version is available from the Android Store. The developers describe the game as:
The world is being invaded by Ghosts. It is your task to track down these ethereal entities and catch them before they can do any harm. Fortunately, you have your Android powered phone to help you in your quest. Now save the world and catch as many ghosts as you can!
Currently up to version 1.2.0 the Lite version can now be played up to level 3 instead of just one level (and is ad-supported to keep it free) which was plenty to give it a good test run with the kids (once I go through explaining to the kids that the ghosts aren’t really real).
Three games are available in SpecTrek, a long game lasting 2 hours (too long for me), a medium game lasting around 45 minutes (too long for the kids), and a short game lasting 15 minutes (just right!). Once started the game has two modes, controlled by the built-in accelerometer, so hold the device flat and you get an overhead Google maps view, hold the phone upright and you see the augmented view from the onboard camera. The short game has a radius of around 400 feet so it’s just right for playing around the local streets.
Once a game is launched, the timer starts and ghosts are dotted around onto the map of where we live so we have to run around the streets (safely of course), tracking them down using the onscreen radar and tracking equipment. When we get close enough to see a ghost onscreen we have to snare it by getting close enough, locking in and pressing the capture button. As the time is ticking by the game gets quite frantic as you head up lanes, down cul-de-sacs, and up the local streets.
The kids loved it and I have to say it was good fun – and offered a chance to stretch the legs. If you have never played an augmented reality game before you should give it ago. First off, it gets you outside in the fresh air, secondly it adds some interesting exercise to your day, and thirdly it’s fun – as long as you can put up with the strange looks from neighbours as you run around screaming about seeing ghosts.