Speaking at the Games for Change 2017 conference, Magic Leap “Chief Gaming Wizard” Graeme Devine offered some insight into the types of AR experiences the company has been building internally, and offers up what he believes will be the format of AR content which will “define a generation.”
Graeme Devine is a long time games industry vet, having worked at studios such as Id Software, Ensemble Studios, Microsoft, and more. He’s now been working with Magic Leap for nearly four years. During his keynote presentation at Games for Change 2017, Devine told the audience that a big part of his job is helping the company think about what augmented reality (which Magic Leap calls “mixed reality) really is, and how content should be designed for it.
Part of trying to figure out how to design compelling AR apps lead the company to “Pitchfest,” internal AR game jams where anyone in the company could pitch an idea for an AR app. From those jams came a number of internal demos which helped the company think about what AR apps are and what they should do. Devine says each pitch was given a set of criteria:
- Five Mile Test – if you’re five miles from your house and realize you’ve forgotten the experience, is it compelling enough that you’d go back for it?
- Toothbrush Test – is it something people will use every day?
- The Halo Test – will people buy an AR device because of this?
- Innovation – Does it make something in the world so useful that people are sad when they don’t get to use it in AR?
- Does it convincingly interact with the world via world meshing and spatialized audio, and what are the controls?
- Can Magic Leap learn from it?
Devine shared a slide showing names of some of the pitches like Secret Lairs, Grimoire, Toon Town, Gadgeteer, Room Advisor, SensAbility, Toon Town, Impulse, Tag, and more.
He highlighted a number in particular, like Vroom!, an AR racing game where players create a track that fills their room and race miniature cars on it. Devine said that while racing the cars in AR was a blast, controlling them was a challenge, and the company didn’t come across a control scheme that really fit.
Devine said the company’s favorite project to from from Pitchfest has been Cat Astrophe!.
“In Cat Astrophe! the idea was you had a controller that was either a water bottle or a laser pointer, or a little cat toy with a bell on it. And you had to herd the cats into their carrier […] and it was 20 cats. And you had these toys down on the floor that they would use and see. You’d put the tube down and they’d recognize it was there and they’d do interesting things,” Devine said. “There was a line to play this Pitchfest demo… people lined up for hours to go and play this thing. And what we noticed was, every single person would use their feet to try and herd the cats. Didn’t do a thing, but they thought it did!”
Devine said that the company has learned a lot about designing compelling AR apps from the Pitchfest process, and also saw that leaders emerged from various parts of the company which they might not have otherwise identified.
Turning his attention toward the scope and format of AR apps, he noted that it took some 20 years after the introduction of the television for the industry to settle on episodic formats for TV narrative. It’s likely that it will also take a long time for AR to find the format which suits it best, though Devine offered a prediction of what it might be; he calls it “everyday adventure”: persistent AR experiences that co-exist with the user.
He described what it might be like to partake in an everyday adventure in AR with a ghost girl named Alice:
“Alice is part of your life. She is part of your home. She is perhaps the character that you talk to the most. You talk to Alice more than any other human. She is conversant. She’s real to you.”
He continued on to paint a picture of an experience that you don’t turn on and off like other forms of media, but instead, the ‘everyday adventure,’ weaves throughout your real life; at any time an adventure could be just around the corner. This type of AR experience, Devine believes, will “define a generation.”