The iPhone has had many third party peripherals released for it, some useful some not, but which category does the AppBlaster from Apptoyz fall into? Is it a waste of money of a fun tool for iPhone gamers?
The AppBlaster is a well designed and well built plastic double triggered gun with a cradle for your iPhone to sit in a landscape orientation on top of the device. Each trigger activates a separate switch in front of the iPhone which touches the screen with conductive connectors which the iPhone registers as an on screen touch.
This provides a mechanism to simulate a gun system for your iPhone with the handset detecting movement and providing a window on the action, whilst physically being able to hold a physical gun increases the level of interaction for the gamer. Does it work well in practice? While it obviously depends on the App the results can be engaging.
Several Apps are available in the App Store which are compatible with the AppBlaster varying in cost but in this article we are going to look at 3, Alien Attack, Duck Hunter & Marine Sharp Shooter.
Shoot the Aliens
Alien Attack is heavily publicised on the packaging and is an example of how the iPhone technology can be utilised with the AppBlaster to provide an engaging gaming experience. Alien Attack in an augmented reality game, projecting computer generated aliens over the real world environment captured with the iPhones camera. A radar on the bottom of the screen shows the distance and the direction of the alien targets and as you physically move around and change the direction and angle of the gun the on screen environment changes appropriately. Alien Attack may not be the most complex game in the App Store but its fun in short doses and shows the potential of the hardware.
Fantastic Fun in Duck Hunters
Duck Hunter is a take on the classic Duck Hunt lightgun style game, the premise is simple, ducks fly from one side of the screen to the other and you shoot as many as you can as the game gets steadily more difficult. The cartoon style graphics add to the amusement and the occasional upgrade to a machine gun provides a brief alternative and change in pace. The game wouldn’t work very well with just a touch screen but with the addition of the AppBlaster the games rises to a new level and becomes a great deal of fun and a great party game.
Sharp Shooting Action
Marine SharpShooter is a much more serious game and one that requires much more subtlety. Playing the part of a sniper you are set missions to take out enemies from a distance, each scene requires you to shoot several enemies through a telescopic sight, due to the magnification each movement is magnified several times but its impressive how the iPhone can detect very small movements allowing you to make small alterations to your aim. Its these small movements and enemies that shoot back after they become aware of you which makes the game very atmospheric, add in hostage rescue elements and the game play becomes very tense and exciting.
In conclusion many will mistakenly see the AppBlaster as a novelty or gimmick but with the right App it can become a genuinely engaging gaming peripheral.
We have looked at augmented reality games in the past, with it’s camera and high quality screen the iPhone naturally lends itself to Augmented Reality platforms, where computer generated graphics are super imposed over real life images.
Barclaycard have embraced this technology and have launch their Toys Unleashed App, a technically impressive but fun little collection of AR games based around bringing toys to life on your hand.
Games are played on the real word, you simply hold out your hand in front of the camera and using the latest on skin detection technology the app automatically works out the position and distance it is away from the camera and scales the on-screen character accordingly. You then interact with on screen objects with your finger. When talking about how the App works Perry Price at DARE who created the app said:
“Using the latest parallel programming techniques the phone splits the image into appropriate channels, rapidly strips away areas of the cameras feed that aren’t skin, identifies regions that might be a hand and then makes a decision about which of those is the more likely to be the tracked hand – all this takes place at a steady 25fps on most models.”
Three games are included in the App, featuring Mr B the Monkey, Chomp the Dinosaur and Mike the Robot, each with their own slightly different objective, you need to throw bananas in a set direction to Mr B, feed Chomp by throwing the right food at him and defend Mike from UFOs.
The games aren’t exactly rocket science but they are fun and are good examples of how augmented reality can be used to good effect, and as the image below (with Art work by Lee Baker) shows with a bit of imagination using the App can become creative. Check out Toys Unleashed in the App Store now
One common problem when traveling abroad is the language barrier, impacting on activities such as business meetings and even reading a restaurant menu the inability to read a foreign language can cause embarrassing difficulties.
Fortunately if you have an iPhone then there is a great solution with the Worldictionary App.
The Worldictionary App provides a clever solution to this problem by using Augmented Reality to translate printed text across 26 languages.
Simply by pointing the iPhone’s camera at printed text, the App reads the word using OCR and translates the word, the translated word then appears on screen above the picture of the original word, and if you need to you can look up the meaning of words with a built in dictionary function.
The app can also play the audio of how a word is pronounced, which might be useful if you need to communicate with someone in a different language.
In addition it’s possible to capture a photo and translate it at a later time, this comes in handy if you are in a rush and need to translate text when you have a bit more time available, you can also load an image from your photo library.
You will need to remember that The Worldictionary App requires an activate data connection to perform the translation process although English and Chinese languages are available offline.
The Worldictionary App is a very useful and easy to use App for those who travel abroad frequently or for those about to go on holiday. You can download it from the app store or by clicking here.
Augmented Reality is the process where computer generated graphics are added to real life photos to provide additional information to the user.
With there always on connections and high quality cameras the current generation of smart phones provide a natural home for Augmented Reality, and it’s now possible to create your own AR scenes with the Aurasma App on the iPhone.
In this example I’m going to attempt to add a Augmented Reality Scene to my website.
How to create an Augmented Reality Scene with Aurasma on the iPhone.
1) Decide on the image that you want to trigger the AR and the image that will be overlaid over the original image.
In this example I’m going to create a scene where a picture of an iPhone will appear over the logo on my website.
2) Load the Aurasma App on the iPhone, and click on the camera icon to start the process.
3) Point the camera at the image that you want to trigger the scene. A focus box will now appear on screen.
4) Move the focus box to surround the image that you want to trigger the AR scene.
5) Press the camera logo on the top right hand corner of the screen to capture the trigger image.
6) You can now select the image that will be overlaid over the real world scene. You can select images or video from blinkx your iPhone or from the Aurasma on line Library
7) Position the image where you want it to appear over the real world image.
8) After the scene has been saved, you will be able to point the camera at the trigger image and the AR scene will be triggered.
9) You can then share your scene with your friends through a variety of ways.
Aurasma provides an easy and free way for you to generate your own Augmented Reality and share it with your friends and family.
StarWars Arcade: Falcon Gunner is a fun first perspective shooting game, where you play to part of the gunner on board of the Millennium Falcon as you try and escape from the Death Star.
The aim of the game is simple, shoot as many enemy fighters as possible as they attack you in Waves. The control system in straight forward, tilt the iPhone to the left, right, up or down to move the gun turret and you move an onscreen control stick to fine tune your shots before tapping the fire button. For those wanting to simplify the controls scheme, there’s also an option to turn on auto aiming, where fighters on screen are targeted automatically, there’s an on screen radar to help you find the enemy.
The games graphics are good and should appeal to fans of the StarWars films, and the games soundtrack features all authentic sound effects and background music, but what I found interesting about the game was the inclusion of an Augmented reality mode.
Augmented Reality is where computer graphics are used to superimpose new images over live pictures from the iPhones camera, and Falcon Gunner uses AR to good effect by replacing the environment of space with your current surroundings, so that Tie Fighters appear to attack you location. It’s a nice use of the iPhones hardware to provide a twist to the game play.
StarWars Falcon Gunner is a good game but if you want to play it you may have to hurry, due to the expiry of the games producers licensing rights the game may be removed from the app store in the near future.
Grab it why you can.
The shipping traffic on the East Coast on England
When walking along the coast line, you will frequently see ships on their voyage and there are a couple of Apps which will help you identify their, name, class and purpose.
The First App is called Ship Finder, which uses the near real time AIS maps, along with the iPhone’s technology to display all the ships in your nearby area on a top down view map or satellite image.
Pressing once on each ship will display it’s Name, Class and Current location, and by clicking on the label will display the full profile of the vessel, including a photograph as shown below.
This App provides a solution for those with an interest in ships to learn more about the ships that they can see and also provides a great tool for tracking vessels on their journey.
The second App is called Ships Ahoy! and compliments the Ship finder App well. Using the iPhones Camera and navigation hardware it presents a real time, Augmented Reality view of the world infront of you, if there are any ships in view an information bubble will appear over the vessel displaying basic infomation about the ship. Pressing the bubble will open a new screen outlining further about the ship.
An Augmented Reality View of Ships in the Area.
Both Apps are availble from the App Store