GDC Product Launches Signal a Fast Track to the ‘AR-Evolution’

Courtesy Android Police.png

Don’t look now, but augmented reality features are slowly creeping into practical daily application, and the technological revolution shows no signs of slowing down following last week’s Game Developers Conference.

With a major tech brands releasing a slew of new and innovative products (both hardware and software development kits) at GDC 2018, AR developers now find themselves with an ever-expanding playing field in which to create content and augment existing mobile apps with new functionality. For Android users, there’s already been an upgrade to more than 85 apps to include augmented reality functionality, viewable directly through a smartphone screen, thanks to Google’s ARCore. And this is only just the beginning ...

From improvements in existing AR function to increase user collaboration, to the release of new creator portals and SDKs, the close of GDC 2018 also signaled the commencement of the “AR-Evolution.” And thanks to some major advancements from companies like Magic Leap, Oculus, and Facebook, and funding from Google Ventures, the consumer base will soon have the ability to embrace even more augmented and mixed reality features.

Magic Leap One Creator Portal SDK

It’s all really just a prelude to a new augmented world according to Epic Games CEO Tim Sweeney, where AR glasses and goggles take the place of our existing smartphone technology.

"I expect [AR glasses] to eventually replace smartphones," commented Sweeney in an interview with Ars gaming editor Kyle Orland. Predicting more than 1-billion users by 2025, Sweeney added that the new Magic Leap One is "really a magical piece of technology that is the missing link towards making that experience possible."

While Sweeney’s prediction applies to the macro acceptance and implementation of augmented reality technology (as specifically relates to the use of AR glasses), a pair of independent developers from Lithuania, Sarunas and Zilvinas Ledas, founders of the Tag of Joy AR studio, offered specific and practical insight to creating AR games for the contemporary market with their “Crafting RPG Narratives in Real-World Environments” presentation.

Explaining that “location-based AR is an MMO,” explained Sarunas Ledas, in an interview with Venture Beat’s Jason Wilson, adding that “all MMOs have a map. The world has a map as well. The difference — the map in AR is the world.”

Focusing on how MMO games can find universal function across drastically different natural environments, the Ledas brothers are cracking the code to improve geolocation games and offer players from around the world, at different levels of experience and interest, the opportunity to level up.

With their message finding resonance among AR, VR, and gaming experts and enthusiasts, the Ledas brothers, who created Monster Buster, aim to improve connectivity specifically for the gaming community, while UK-based Blue Vision Labs has already cracked the code to collaborative AR thanks to its new SDK, which relies on detailed mapping and geolocation technology to help developers create new augmented worlds, layered atop the natural environment.

Blue Vision Labs courtesy TechCrunch

Like Tag of Joy, the Blue Vision product utilizes existing smartphone technology to provide AR content to users. This minimal barrier to entry essentially serves as an immediate invite to the new AR world, allowing consumers the chance use and understand certain AR elements while the technology continues to develop. This period will essentially serve as a prelude to the era of AR glasses that Sweeney and Magic Leap are predicting.

Set for release on 2018, the Magic Leap One goggles are a major development for AR and VR developers, who are eager to create content for the Plantation, FL tech giant. Still, despite the release of Magic Leap’s SDK and Creator Portal, some developers are still figuring out how to prioritize creating for Magic Leap’s platform when Google and Facebook have a more clear path to distribution and sales.

“Magic Leap has been promising cool stuff for awhile now, but my guess is that they’re waiting for content to be built,” explains Possible Reality CEO Ryan Isbell. “They recently just announced the Creator Portal for a product that doesn’t exist on the market yet ... it will be interesting to see what it can do.”

And while Isbell is primarily focused on advancing photo-realistic avatar technology with Possible Reality’s INTARACT application, taking avatar creation beyond current offerings from Microsoft and Xbox Live, he also intends to utilize the new Facebook Studio SDK (h/t Josh Constine, TechCrunch), which focuses on the tracking marker technology previously available from Vuforia.

GDC 2018 provided other AR, VR, gaming, and tech highlights: Oculus released its new $200 standalone VR headset, while Google hinted at a buyout of light-field tech company Lytro. But missing from any major AR news of late has been Apple.

With its Worldwide Developer Conference slated for June 4-8, Apple has the next few months to make several major announcements and improvements to its existing AR functionality. For example, similar iOS updates are expected for the 85 Android apps that have opened its doors to AR, while Apple is in the process of integrating hardware and software, aided by the iPhoneX’s stereoscopic camera and their ARKit. But what else is Apple planning in the second quarter of 2018? Especially after Samsung unveiled a similar camera in the Galaxy S9.

Samsung AR Emjoi

This is essentially the biggest question concerning many AR developers who are already off and running, creating content on ARCore, AR Studio, and now the Magic Leap SDK. Logically, developers will never want to alienate themselves from any Apple platform, but how can the market react when there is no clear indicator to how the Cupertino, CA-based tech giant will pivot leading up to WWDC?

It’s all part of the excitement, and frustration, of development and creation, and it’s essentially the wild west of augmented reality technology. So adopt new technology early, adopt new technology often, and don’t forget, we’ve now entered the era of the “AR-Evolution.”

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Possible Reality Inc.