Mobile Apps

Father.IO – New Augmented Reality Game

When the first popular augmented game – Ingress – was launched, I wondered how much time needed for rival games to appear. And surprisingly, I have not seen anything close enough to match. Probably, one of the reasons was support from Google that Ingress got right from the start. Sure, it is hard to compete with such operational, financial and reputational support.

Team behind another augmented reality startup – Father.IO – decided to go a different way and get funding via public platform Indiegogo. Campaign still continues, but it has already surpassed the goal and hype is big.

So, what is it? Game combines Ingress with multiplayer action shooter. Story is pretty simple here: two factions – the human race and cybernetic life form (The Evolved), controlled by the virus, called Father.IO (read “machines and Skynet”). Now, battle for Humanity starts (yes, poor humanity, again).

Father.IO Augmented Buildings

You are able capture territories in the augmented reality, harvest for Energy and Cryptocoins (XM in Ingress) – as you will need it to play, but there are also shooting battles where you can have fun, similar to laser game. This is achieved by a special piece of hardware, easily attached to your smartphone and called Inceptor, allowing you to shoot with a laser beam up to 50 meters. It also has 6 highly sensitive, infrared receiving sensors, which can capture your enemy’s beam and switch you off the game :). Boom and go home. Or not.

What I like here is a lot of things are customizable. There are different roles, which you can have: Assault, Engineer, Hacker etc. Even Commander overlooking the battlefield (remember, Intel map). Basic roles will be available from the start, but you’ll need to gain experience to get others. Also, different weapons will spice up the game, each one with own characteristics, like damage, range, firerate, reload time etc. Add there EMPs, grenades and other stuff on top. Looks pretty cool for me from this point of view!

Father.IO Assault

Augmented world is based on maps from your phone, though game developers promise few interesting “interactions”: you will be able to build virtual structures (not sure, how) and also utilize existing structures depending on their real purpose. Say, you capture a hospital, which will somehow improve your “health level”. And bank gives you game money (this is definitely augmented world as no bank just gives you money :).

Gameplay consists of harvesting, capturing and battles. Apart from accidental duels, some weekly battles are planned as well as a big global gathering each 3-months.

Overall, project is very promising. Design is outstanding and I like the concept as there is a wide area for enhancements and possible improvements. For example, one of the funding stretch goals is to create a virtual drones, which will do some basic tasks for you like harvesting the Energy, deposit and spend resources.

Early 2014 marketing video shows how the gameplay might look like.

Though let me also rise few concerns from my Ingress experience:

  1. To enjoy shooting mode you have to buy a physical device, which might turn out some players. And developers should have a stable manufacturing process to fulfil the possible demand and avoid delays in shipping the Inceptors.
  2. Ingress made it clear – two sides are not enough for a complex game. At least three, four factions should be present, each with some unique strengths and weaknesses. Remember Command & Conquer Generals? Something similar might work.
  3. There should be some clear goals in the game, apart from capturing and recapturing. I admit, this is extremely difficult to implement in one game – balance, so that other team can win next time and some intermediate valuable results, so that there is point in playing time over time.

Excited? At the moment, Super Early Bird (1 Inceptor) “perk” for a true bargain price of $18 is sold out. Next one is 30$ (Inceptor + Artwork) for $30. It is promised that first batch of Inceptors will be ready for shipment in June. Currently, you can already download early beta of the app for both iOS and Android devices and have a look.

Father.IO Indiegogo campaign 

Layar – Augmented Reality App

Android users can try an augmented reality app – Layar. It uses your smartphone camera and GPS sensor together with magnetic field detector.

The result is real world through camera with some places of interest on it. Now, what places? Here is the trick – layers (“layArs”) with different set of objects. For example, restaurants, monuments, galleries.

Some of “layars” are quite original, yet useless, in my opinion. Instagram photos, Tweets and graphical 3D animations, like flying sausages above the trees 🙂 Fun for children to trick the grandma.

Also, most of the “useful” ones are tied to the specific location, say, sights in London or street art in New York. Therefore, you may end up seeing nothing really helpful, except Instagram pics of your neighbour’s lunch 🙂

For some reason, folks behind Layar decided to shift idea of the app from the urban augmented reality to the, so called, “Interactive Print” – a “scanner”, which provides a hidden content (or even a “Buy it now” option), when pointed on some featured poster or magazine. Of course, these posters should have a special Layar barcode on them to show hidden data.

Layar Augmented Reality Interactive Print

In conclusion, app is worth trying, especially if you live or travel in a big city and have a good mobile plan. Then you probably find new and interesting places around. Or some cool place to eat/drink.

By the way, I noticed one “layar”, which encourages you to create a party spot for others to join – “Hey, step in, drinks are on the house!”. Then those news about 10,000 guests came to a party and ruined the house. Be aware of augmented parties 🙂

P.S. There are many furious comments on Google Play market regarding the fact that Layar was preinstalled as a system app on some devices, though not really needed by the owners. Not a clever move, I think. People should have a choice (to uninstall) or it will look like a coercion.

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