Could Google’s ARCore platform finally provide a low-cost alternative to mixed reality?
Best known for their outrageous-brand of AAA VR content, such as their immensely popular title Job Simulator, Texas-based game developer Owlchemy Labs is no stranger to the spotlight. The accomplished studio has made waves within the immersive entertainment industry thanks to a fine selection of polished titles, each bursting with the companies unique brand of offbeat humor.
So it comes at no surprise that the VR studio has once again returned to the headlines; only this time the team is touting something much more than a cheeky VR title.
In a recent blog post released by the studio, Owlchemy Labs revealed an experimental augmented reality spectator camera that allows those outside of the headset to share the VR experience in real-time. Dubbed the “Mobile Spectator,” the application utilizes Google’s ARCore platform to track a smart phones position in the real-world and convert it into a virtual camera. Spectators can then move around the VR-user in mixed reality as if looking through a digital window. While in VR, the smart phone user is represented as a magic moving mirror, allowing the in-game player to view their actions and strike some sexy poses.
Here’s how it works: both the spectator and VR-user log in to the same WiFi connection on their smart phone and PC respectively. Using the app, the spectator can then hit the sync button to calibrate its distance from the headset. Once that step is complete, spectators can then freely move around and view the VR-user from within their virtual world. Put simply, the PC captures, encodes, and then wirelessly transmits each frame from the experience to the smart phone device in real-time, in-turn creating a virtual camera with a live feed to reality.
Owlchemy Labs can be seen testing the exciting new tool during a session of their upcoming title, Vacation Simulator, a sequel to 2016’s Job Simulator; during which they tease the exciting possibilities of various interactive elements.
“Everyone loved to pose at the floating Mobile Spectator camera, so adding a camera capture button to the app was an easy choice,” says the studio in an official blog post. “By tapping the camera button on the phone, the device tells the PC to capture a high-resolution frame. This image is then sent back to the phone and saved directly into the phone’s camera roll, ready for editing or sharing on social media. It’s so quick and natural it feels like taking a photo of the real world!”
“Interaction from the Mobile Spectator app seemed compelling, so we also added a button to the mobile app that, when pressed, will toss beach balls at the player in VR” they continue. “Keep in mind that, while this is essentially a multiplayer component, we didn’t have to build a custom network to support this.”
Of course it goes without saying Mobile Spectator is still an R&D experiment with a long road ahead. Currently, both the smart phone device and PC take significant performance hits while running the application, resulting in several noticeable instances of latency.
Regardless, the tool is still an incredibly interesting use of AR technology in conjunction with VR; one that could very well open up a whole new method for spectating VR. Viewing your favorite VR streamer in a more intimate format, cooperating with friends in asymmetrical multiplayer VR games, directing animated films; all realistic possibilities thanks to this exciting experiment.
Image Credit: Owlchemy Labs