Hasbro seem to have a fair bit of faith on the AR idea, as we’ve seen them port the idea over to the upcoming new Rebelle line to be released later on this year. Once again, the toy/tech media have been all over it and claim this to be an innovative way to bring the tech worlds and the toy worlds together. Hasbro aren’t the only ones, with other toy companies releasing similar wares. Kickstarter funded App Tag brought out their App blaster because hundreds of people believed it a phone based blaster would be a great idea. Tek Recon is the new kid on the block that we’ve only seen glimpses of but is about to make the humble rubber band gun seriously bad ass with iPhone apps to have a near “Halo” experience with your friends. This MUST be the way things are going.. Right?
I’m still not convinced.
Last year, the LTAR series of laser tag gear got a fair whack of attention. The whole AR functionality looked AWESOME and seemed to make perfect sense as a natural progression.. in theory. I even ensured I was in the US when they came out so I could pick up a set, THAT’s how keen I was. The fact they were also going to be available domestically meant Australia’s long standing drought for good home laser tag gear was over; surely anyone with a Nerf blaster would want these too, right?
Flash forward six months and the sales of these blasters haven’t been as epic as we’d have liked nor does it look like it was the jumpstart for laser tag that we were all hoping for.
Which is a shame, because the LTAR series of blasters really are some of the best home laser tag blasters ever made and that's WITHOUT the AR cradle. (as a side note- really- pick yourself up a pair of these- some stores are selling a two pack for 35 bucks which is a bargain.)
The thing is, I don’t know anyone who actively uses the AR features of these taggers.
Firstly, all of the info surrounding the LTARs incorrectly suggested it was mandatory to have an iPod touch or iPhone 4GS. This turned many people off because 1) they might not have HAD an iPhone or iPod touch, and 2) they might not have wanted to attach a 500 dollar phone to a 40 dollar toy gun. The fact the LTARs don’t require the iPhone/iPod touch cradle to perform actual laser tag functionality was not obvious and therefore that vital piece of info was lost on so many people.
That’s one part. But the other part is if you do fire up the AR app and give it a go, you’ll realise pretty quickly that augmented reality- well it kinda sucks:(
I can’t quite explain it but there’s something very unsatisfying about firing at nothing. It’s not the same as a video game. With a video game, you’re immersed in the video game world. With AR, you’re kind of still in your world, albeit with a few uninspiring graphics flying around for you to shoot. It doesn’t really change your view of reality, it just looks like, and feels like, a gimmick. I liked the idea of a tracking/motion sensor ala Aliens style to compliment the blasters because it’s adding a useful element to the gameplay. But adding the visuals of the lasers and even the weapons changes just didn’t work for me- they didn't feel real. And sure enough, most people I knew who tried it, regretted fitting their blasters with the permanent iPhone cradle in the first place.
The Nerf Rebelle line is going to have a similar cradle system, with added social media elements to share “missions” and what have you. In the privacy of your lounge room, you’re happy to “go on missions” with your friends via a headset. COD and a PS3. But as far as physically walking around your neighbourhood with a Nerf gun/bow ? My eccentric extroverted friends are already self conscious of playing the “Zombies Run” app and that just involves running fast so do we really believe that the self conscious ‘tweenies’ market is going to be happy with patrolling and sharing such activities over their phone connections? Market research says yes, right?
Problem is market research says a lot of things that sound great in theory; most people would respond pretty positively at the idea of AR tech and in our heads, it sounds like a great idea. Just like the idea of the LTAR sounded fantastic and was much anticipated by all of us, but the harsh reality is it rarely gets used. And that’s the thing about all of these new cross over tech toys; the concept sounds fantastic but they rarely meet user expectations in reality.
I was very excited by my App Tag blasters (hell I was one of the backers who funded the kickstarter project) and had big dreams about bringing them into the office and having mad wars with my fellow colleagues around the floor. The reality? They’ve never seen longer than 2 minutes of battle. They are well made, and do exactly what they said they would do, so what was the problem? The problem was my reality of Augmented Reality was different from what theirs was:P
|Tek Recon Havok- Pic courtesy of Laptopmag.com|
This whole ideal of the ‘real life video game” sounds fantastic in theory, but I just find AR technology at this stage feels very artificial and gimmicky. In the virtual video game world, we have our avatar and we have our blaster of choice. In the real world we like things to be real; Nerfers already struggle with the idea of laser tag lacking actual projectiles to fire, so how do you think they'll relate to an AR cradle? I noticed these very cool looking new blasters from 'Tek Recon' look fantastic but again are also relying on the AR cradle to appeal to users. Maybe they'll bring something out different that captures this cynical Pocket's imagination, but for now.. the jury's still out.
What about you? Are you sold on AR?