How is augmenting our reality going to shape the future of play? To begin to attempt to sufficiently answer this curiosity, it would many volumes and many years. But, we will review the current status, expectations and thought on augmenting toys.

To start, how do we really define toys that are augmenting our reality? One can argue that just the use of our cell phones is augmenting our lives and surroundings and therefore an Augmented Reality toy. They would have a good point. Or, augmented toys could be as complex as the most sophisticated game engine running a mixed reality app on eyewear. Inside-out tracking, special recognition, real-time haptic feedback. BAM! You almost got demolished by that virtual plane crash! For the purpose of this prose we’re reviewing the different types of augmentation in toys as “mixed reality” with eyewear, “projection mapping” projecting light on textured surfaces, “cell phones/geo-gaming” for screen images triggered by GPS coordinates, and “robotics” for all things robotic.

By considering a varied range of technologies we’re keeping an open mind to the meaning of “Media Technologies”, media is already rather general, versatile and diverse in definition according to context and audience. The point is, don’t get distracted assigning titles. The emergence of many technologies are integrated, it’s all just ones and zeros, silicone and wires. What we’re doing with these technologies is what matters, and we’re blurring the line of the frame of the digital and physical once had. Now, we are integrating content into our daily lives more than ever and living the media we consume and create. XR “Extended Reality

 

XR Extended Reality

XR Extended Reality

 

Mixed Reality: The infusion of digital content into our physical world surroundings by running an HPU, which is a Holographic Processing Unit, through a headset. The applications on these run off a game engine, which is the software that displays all the varying media content and code of a file for a user to experience in a display unit, such as a headset.

The other mixed reality is overlaying live action caught in front of a green screen into the virtual world from a 3rd person point of view, filmed by a “virtual camera”aligned with a physical world camera.

RoboRaid! Battling alien robots, how could any other use of AR be more badass? The game was previously under the alias “Project X-Ray”, naturally snuffed for reasons of not wanting to sound like that Australian Teen’s movie about unapologetically throwing the nation’s biggest banger while his parents were out of town. Presumably.

 

RoboRaid

RoboRaid

 

Though the robot-alien warfare game that adjusted itself to your room in real time was beyond genius and next-level gaming-utopia, Microsoft shifted gears. Their pitching of making holoLens a gaming mecca was unannounced to the public, but subtly obvious at last year’s E3 when Microsoft no-showed. Instead they will build a product that is enterprise-friendly, looking to keep king of the office tool game. In every cubical each and every enslaved monkey respected corporate employee around the world will be able to overlay augmented sensory information on a workspace in order to improve their performance, while maybe decreasing pay to invest in even smarter virtual fixtures. At the end of the day, machines will manage a lot more responsibilities, and he who can interface with them will be indispensable. But back to our sadness, HOW CAN IT BE MICROSOFT IS ABANDONING AUGMENTED REALITY GAMING?

Well, they are. Dollar signs blind people. Welcome to life. But, if you insist on AR gaming, you can stream your Xbox to a HoloLens, and play. This shouldn’t be too surprising, as the AR glasses are just a Windows 10 PC on your face. You can stream to the display, and the controller will remain paired to the Xbox. So, see, there is always a hack-around. See more here

Projection Mapping: Mapping a big building in the night with a dope soundtrack and heavy subs is the ultimate way to party. Check out the Palace of Parliament in Bucharest, 2014. The definition of a “big-boy-toy” You must see it to understand the magnitude of this lit architectural futuristic mind-blow show. Imagine this at your launch party? Or at a downtown club on the stroke of midnight celebration every full moon. Or maybe best in rural third world country raves? Undisputedly, turning surfaces into perceivably varying textures and colors, to a surrounding audio is entertainment in it’s most mega form, next to rock stadiums.

 

 

Speaking of buildings, you can super charge your climb up the side of a building with an AR gamification. First it incentivizes you to beat the opponent in a public light display, but it also provides feedback to become a better climber. Then, there are games within, like pong-style competition where you are the baseboard. Kind of the same work as a goal keeper?

OctoCloud – creates asocial aspect, a collaborative game. As the name suggests, up to eight players can play at a time. At first, standing next to you might be a total stranger, but once you play the first round and a feel for the game, you and the other players really begin to bond. That’s what games do, they build comradery. Shared journeys to moments of discovery create friendship and trust.

 

Octocloud

Octocloud

 

Any surface you can project to, you can game on. Check out this game where I think you jump up and down the wall like mickey mouse’s leased cousin.

Better yet is combining the flashy powers of mapping with conductive ink. You can paint an entire wall to conduct electricity, or have lights connected by the lines you draw. Metal is in the ink, check it out here. Easy fun birthday present idea for a child, if you know a little about electrical work, here is a video guide. Or if you are looking to bring a gamified storyboard to life, here is a bunch of people having fun playing with something of the sort.

Cell Phones/Geo gaming: Are the most convenient and readily available AR gaming. Sometimes you can buy an add on, like this toy gun here, being sold on Newegg. Guns are always a classic, just aim and action!

PokemonGo of course put the geo-based gaming on the map and “augmented reality” all over the news. It is even a part of Yelp reviews, according to my girlfriend’s cell phone, and she’s never even played the game (to my knowledge). Mobile gaming has always been brilliant, but now we are using satellite positioning, and the world is our terrain to play in. Nintendo is really running with the mobile action, investing heavily in a recent release Switch which makes transitioning from home entertainment to on-the-go seemingly easy. Rumors began swirling early that it would later morph into a VR abled device, but Nintendo has made no official comment. However, the guy manning the Nintendo village at GDC in San Francisco this last month practically winked at me when I asked.

 

PokemonGo

 

The advertising industry is all over the geo-fencing information. Oh, you want this information, these promotions? Well, I guess you’ll have to come into the store! The idea of getting up and working for your coupons is subtly satisfying. But what about when we just get robots to play the games for us? Maybe that’s too far.

Before we get into our next topic, let’s address the perverted minds and admit YES, there are augmenting sex toys. They don’t much blend into this article, but if you must, CyberSkin allows you to “plug-in and enjoy the vaginal sensations”which is how a virgin might word it. Anyways, not our topic. Onward!

Robotics. Though this is typically further from the traditional thought when thinking about “augmented reality” it might be the truest to the words’ meanings. It had me thinking about the robot I wanted as a kid and received one Christmas, Rad 2.0! I did a quick search engine query for him and found on “theoldrobots.com” my old pal. He still looks just as young as ever to me. Kind of like my kid brother, we would harass the cat together. He picked up radio signals and I started to listen to the airplanes talking to each other when I wasn’t staring at m Napster download screen.

We’ve come a long way in the last 20 years, and robots have multiplied greatly in abilities, agilities and connectivity. The typical Target-sold robot looks to be retailing at $60 dollars, does karate kicks, dances, and other acrobatic activities. When shopping be sure to investigate how programmable the bot is. Also key is to consider if it is responsive to voice and if it will adaptively learn.

Dog robots, man’s best friend can fetch the internet now! It’s the natural evolution for robo-dogs to be human’s friend, but should we be worried about the displacement of our current dogs? Oh how morals conflict every advance we make, and more so year after year.

NASA designed the Robosapien which is probably your best option for under $100. Sphero has also been making a name in the game with adaptive personalities and ] Star Wars co-branding. Or you can learn to do it yourself like Makeblock DIY. You’ll build, customize and program the bot, exercising engineering, mechanics, circuitry and coding skills.

 

Robosapien

Robosapien

 

These games and toys are quickly becoming profound education tools. Augmented education deserves it’s own post, because it will greatly impact the future. Which begs us to ask ourselves, how will these changes in our gadgets and games effect children?

How we engage and communicate with machines is constantly changing, but there are basics set in the beginning, such as how to use a mouse and keyboard. Though there have been many advances in these technologies, from speed to mobility, the basic functionality has remained the same.

One step further, the way in which we engage our monitors with mouse controls and keyboard commands, such as the start menu in the bottom right of windows, the right click for menu options crtl+s to save a document, and such are all a part of a language you either learned in your adolescence or after. Similar to spoken language, like Franch, Arabic, Japanese and so on, if you learn the language in your formative years, you tend to have a better command of it.

How babies learn and develop language is a much deeper subject, and you can read more here, or by doing your own research. But for our purposes, we just want to make clear that it matters when someone learns how to communicate. And, that a major advantage of toys for the youth is that they will learn how to engage these AR interfaces in their formative years and when they enter the job market many of the former-babies will be superior to many of us. We digital-natives will wind up yielding to the “augmented-natives”

No one can escape time.