The goal of reality technologies is to bridge the gap between tech and the virtual world. If such is the case, then the folks from Owlchemy Lab have brought us one step closer. With the AR Mobile Spectator tool, an outing into Virtual Reality is no more a lonesome affair. That experience, as they all should be, is now shareable via smartphone.
We have seen all kinds of crafty Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality experiments over recent years. They span both ends of the utility spectrum, the majority hovering somewhere in the middle. The R&D VR Mobile Spectator project basks in the neither here nor there land, tilting perhaps towards the useful. By calibrating VR headset with smartphone, acting in AR we can now become the third person avatar on the latter. It is Mixed Reality of sorts, mixing the ‘realities’ between back and forth. VR gaming is where the new utility will instantly shine, though we could see it being used in education, travel, sports, or indeed everywhere else down the road.
Mobile Spectator essentially help us see what is going on in someone else’s virtual world. The science behind the solution is complex in its simplicity. By calibrating the devices, the MS app kind of makes an AR item out of a smartphone. The app tracks the position of the mobile device, and renders the third person image through PC. For the thing to work, there has to be a perfect coding harmony among the trio (Headset, Smartphone, and PC). PC and phone are WiFi-ed, the AR-ed phone acts as an additional AR camera whose image is rendered to PC, encoded, sent to its original source which is the smartphone where the image is decoded and shown on screen in real-time.
It may sound confusing, but behind all this interplay of role-switching lies a gripping potential. AR Mobile Spectator allows for a shared VR experience on both receiving ends. It is difficult to pin down exactly where it will flesh out; the potential we mean. Suffice it to say that headset wearer (let’s call him/her the player 1) can see the AR-ed phone inside the VR frame and adjust position to stay within frame. Those operating the smartphone (player 2, 3 and on) can look around the Virtual Reality space with no limits whatsoever.
AR Mobile Spectator makes it possible to not only view the VR world, but to affect it too. Owlchemy Lab couldn’t allow this breakthrough to launch without adding elements of interactivity. It is light for now, players outside VR can toss beach balls to other players. But we can see how this might grow into a fully developed VR multiplayer gaming opportunity. Add camera capture into this MR mix, and we have a truly compelling set.
Still in its infancy, AR Mobile Spectator is mixing realities in the best way possible. It is not without flaws; performance hits to both PC and smartphone are substantial and latency is still there. But it’s a breakthrough, and a fairly interesting one.