Augmented Reality Games - How Far Have We Come In 7 Years?

There's a delightful video doing the rounds of an Augmented Reality game for the iPhone. What better use of technology than to simulate the destruction of TIE Fighters?

While undoubtedly cool, what amuses me about this game is why it has taken the gaming world so long to catch up with Symbian! Way back in 2003, I got my hands on the Siemens SX1. It was the first non-Nokia handset to be running Symbian. As well as "modern" features like GPS, web browsing, and apps - it also came with a very interesting game.


Mozzies was an award winning Augmented Reality game. Perhaps the first of its kind to make it in to a mass market phone. I can't find any videos of it - so here are some screenshots.
Mozzies Screenshot
Mozzies Screenshot
Mozzies Screenshot
From a presentation by Andreas Jakl.

As you can see, not markedly different to the iPhone / Star Wars game. Sure, the graphics have come a long way - but it's still just tracking movement through the camera and accelerometer, and then painting shootable "baddies" on the screen.

Seven Year Itch

What annoys me about Symbian is that it has all these amazing and innovative features and then squanders them. I've never seen another Symbian handset with Mozzies on it. You'd think that an award winning game like that would be on every Symbian handset.

Another example. The N95 was technically superior to the original iPhone. Yet Nokia dragged its feet on using the camera accelerometer to power the screen rotation. Barely any updates came out for the the N95 series - any hope of using that as a platform to beat the onslaught on smartphones was wasted.

I don't know whether it's Symbian or Nokia or someone else who is to blame. What I do know is that Symbian has lost any technical lead it may have had. And that's desperately sad.

The Dark Side

In researching this blog post, I came across a delightfully disturbing tale of a young man who had his phone smashed for playing this game.

Heriyono said: ' I was so engrossed with the mosquitoes, I became oblivious to my surroundings.

'Then, I saw through the phone, a figure behind the swarm of mosquitoes heading in my direction but I thought he was just passing by.'

Heriyono claims the man then shouted: 'Trying to take a photo of my girlfriend, is it?'

And he smashed the phone on the floor.

I do wonder how many more phones will be destroyed when people think they are being used to take photos. Or how many photographers will use game playing as a cover?

Perhaps it's time to make a video app which merely looks like you're playing a game...?

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