I can’t get enough of “portal” augmented reality experiences. It’s that dream of stepping into your wardrobe and walking into C.S. Lewis’ Narnia almost realized.
(Wait, someone really needs to create that The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe experience. *scribbles furiously in my ideas notebook* IKEA almost did it but instead of Mr. Tumnuss it’s a drab warehouse.)
There’s a portal template that’s part of the iOS augmented reality developer kit so it means a lot of developers are experimenting with the format, though I’ve yet to come across any of these portals that were anything more than just a novelty. One of the bigger issues with the concept is the amount of real life space needed while playing. In the IKEA experience example I linked above I wanted to walk to the end of the digital warehouse. In order to walk to the end of the fake building I would have had to walk and stand in my actual street. That seems like a bad idea for that’s where speeding cars live.
Last night I played around with the dARk app that had a very House of Leaves vibe and once again space became an issue. The app wanted me to walk around its dark world, but not only did I have to dodge the usual Hot Wheels strewn about my living room, I could only go as far as my kitchen a few feet away. It has been non-stop raining here so stepping outside wasn’t possible.
I’ve collected quite a few of these apps on my phone and in a bid to free up some gigabytes I decided to finally try some of them. Interestingly, one called AR Moon manages to do a decent job dealing with a lack of space in the real world. It has you driving a moon rover and there are some manual controls to scoot you around should you run out of real life space for walking. Very novel. (Even if the piped in moon landing audio clips get quite old, quite fast.)
Mostly, for a while anyway, we’re going to see experiences like The Arcade, which is essentially a Stranger Things tribute with a lot of atmosphere and very little interactivity.
Finally, the rain cleared for a few minutes today so I got out on my lunch break and tried Alice AR Quest, an Alice in Wonderland themed game. It seems to have a little more substance with a bunch of mini games within the digital world, but it tries hard to up-sell you into a premium version of the app, something I wasn’t really willing to do. Notably, it’s the only one of these experiences that has you hold your phone in a landscape position, which makes for far friendlier video capturing.
Even with these fairly middling experiences, I have yet to get tired of walking through augmented reality portals. I still get giddy in that moment after I’ve walked into the digital world and turn around to see my real world peeking through the doorway.
“I’ve crossed into a scary digital world but, hey look! I can see my couch through there!” That mash-up of real versus imaginary gets me every time.