Qualcomm & Square Enix Partner to Create AR Games

Qualcomm and Square Enix today announced a partnership that will see the creation of XR experiences by Square Enix, which includes the Japanese company’s subsidiary studios and intellectual property.

Announced at the annual Game Developers Conference (GDC 2022) in San Francisco today, the partnership is said to involve Square Enix’s Advanced Technology Division (ATD), which will be working with the chipmaker to create content for AR glasses.

The team will be using Qualcomm’s Snapdragon Spaces XR Developer Platform, a software tool kit that allows creators to make 3D applications for XR platforms.

Qualcomm initially launched Snapdragon Spaces back in late 2021, putting heavy emphasis on its capability as a platform for AR content creation—or more specifically content targeting smartphone-tethered AR glasses, something Qualcomm hopes to be an emerging product category for consumers.

“Square Enix has always been committed to state-of-the-art game technology to push storytelling boundaries, delivering unforgettable experiences for our fans” said Ben Taylor, Technical Director at Square Enix. “We have been investing in XR and look forward to building on Snapdragon Spaces. In particular, we think the time is right with XR to innovate on games of a classic genre we are especially known for, and we look forward to sharing them with the world to further our mission to help spread happiness across the globe.”

Square Enix hasn’t said which IP it intends on bringing to AR; it’s the maker behind a host of popular series such as Final Fantasy, Dragon Quest, and Tomb Raider. The parent company owns British game publisher Eidos and Japanese arcade gaming studio Taito.

The post Qualcomm & Square Enix Partner to Create AR Games appeared first on Road to VR.

Final Fantasy Publisher Square Enix Working On AR Gaming For Qualcomm’s Dev Kit

Final Fantasy publisher Square Enix is working with Qualcomm on its new AR developer kit, Snapdragon Spaces.

The pair announced the collaboration today as Qualcomm also revealed a $100 million ‘Snapdragon Metaverse Fund‘. It will see Square Enix explore the possibilities for “immersive gaming experiences” on the platform.

Specifics for the partnership aren’t known but, in a prepared statement, Ben Taylor, Technical Director at Square Enix noted that the company thinks “the time is right with XR to innovate on games of a classic genre we are especially known for, and we look forward to sharing them with the world”.

First announced back in November 2021, Snapdragon Spaces consists of a pair of head-worn AR glasses that are tethered to an external power source such as a smartphone. Similar to other glasses — many of which are powered by Qualcomm’s own XR2 platform — the device is capable of anchoring virtual images in the real world when viewed through the lenses. It also features positional tracking and hand tracking for input.

Square Enix, meanwhile, is known for some of the biggest brands in gaming, including several Japanese role-playing series such as the Final Fantasy games. Taylor’s note on a “classic genre” suggests that the company could be looking to bring this style of experience to the platform.

Qualcomm previously noted that Snapdragon Spaces would see general availability sometime in spring 2022, but it’s currently unclear what this rollout will look like.

What would you want to see Square Enix bring to AR? Let us know in the comments below!

Mario Kart: Live Multiplayer Now Works Splitscreen With A Single Switch

A new update for Mario Kart Live: Home Circuit brings splitscreen mulitplayer functionality, allowing players to use two physical karts with one Nintendo Switch console.

Mario Kart Live: Home Circuit released last year and brings the famous arcade racing franchise to your home, using a camera-equipped toy kart to turn your home into an AR Mario Kart course on your Switch.

Using a Nintendo Switch console, players can connect to the kart and control it using the Switch, mapping out an AR-powered course around your home using cardboard gates that can be placed around you on the ground.

One Home Circuit kit comes with the game, the kart and the required gates to map the course. Multiplayer was supported at launch, but only with multiple Switch consoles — each player would have to use their own Switch along with their own physical kart.

Now, with a free update, splitscreen multiplayer is supported, allowing two physical karts to compete against each other using just one Switch system. This means that a family with just one console can purchase two karts and play on the same system. In addition, the base Home Circuit kit is now discounted for Black Friday at multiple retailers, bringing the price of one kit down to $59.99 from $99.99.

There’s also some other additions in the 2.0 update, including a new Relay Race multiplayer mode, which allows 2-4 players to use one kart, taking turns controlling the kart via mid-race switches.

There’s a new Luigi Cup added to the Grand Prix as well, along with some new cosmetics and customization unlocks.

Check out our full review of Mario Kart Live: Home Circuit from last year.

Niantic Launches Pikmin Bloom, Harry Potter: Wizards Unite To Shut Down

Over the last week or so, AR mobile game developer Niantic has opened one door and closed another – Pikmin Bloom is now available, but 2019’s Harry Potter: Wizards Unite will be shut down in 2022.

Back in March, Niantic announced it was working on a Pikmin mobile AR title in partnership with Nintendo. As of last week, Pikmin Bloom began rolling out to several countries — it’s now available in almost all major markets, including Europe, Asia Pacific, Africa, Middle East, the US, Canada.

Like many other mobile AR games, Pikmin Bloom follows the rough framework and precedent set by Pokemon Go, Niantic’s first and most successful mobile AR title. However, Bloom takes a slightly different approach to the concept — Bloom is more idle, focused more on simply walking around than actively visiting locations or searching for something. The more you walk, the more pikmin you’ll obtain.

Overall, the game seems to markets itself more as a glorified pedometer with a few game elements thrown in. There’s also minimal AR content compared to other Niantic titles. In fact, the only true use of mobile AR appears to be when you send Pikmin to fight mushrooms, which can be viewed as an AR overlay similar to catching Pokemon in Pokemon Go.

In the same week, Niantic also announced that it will be shutting down its 2019 mobile AR game, Harry Potter: Wizards Unite.

Wizards Unite, the studio’s first game to follow in Pokemon Go’s footsteps, announced that it will close on January 31, 2022 in a post on the game’s website. The game will be removed from store fronts even earlier, from December 6 2021.

We weren’t huge fans of Wizards Unite, but it’s just one game of many — Niantic has announced and released a few IP-focused mobile AR titles in the wake of Pokemon Go, but so far none have managed to catch on in the same way.

Let’s hope that changes with Transformers: Heavy Metal, the next Niantic AR game set to release sometime this year.

Cubism In AR On Oculus Quest Might Be The Best Way To Play

Cubism is a Quest game that has always been at the forefront of the platform, successfully implementing cutting edge new features as soon as possible. The new Passthrough mode, which uses a new experimental API available to developers, is no exception. In fact, it might be the best way to play the game yet.

Cubism developer Thomas Van Bouwel gave UploadVR access to the Cubism build with Passthrough API support, first shown off on Twitter last week. We jumped in and played around with some of the puzzles, as seen in the footage embedded below, and came away absolutely delighted.

When playing in Passthrough mode, the gameplay itself remains completely unchanged. Cubism is a slow, stationary and minimalist puzzle game — the only changes when playing in Passthrough mode is the white (or black) standard background gets replaced with the Quest’s live Passthrough feed of your surroundings. The Quest is suddenly transformed into an AR device, allowing you to manipulate all of Cubism’s familiar puzzles in a live representation of the space you’re playing in.

Somewhat naturally, I started to find myself using my surroundings to help me play — as you can see in the video, I started to use my desk as a plane to work on. I placed the puzzle flat on the right of the desk, while I moved the pieces over to the left side.

Because of Cubism’s slow, stationary nature, I didn’t experience too much rapid warping of the Passthrough image while playing, which happens more frequently during head or body movement. Just like Cubism’s implementation of hand tracking and 120Hz support, implementing the AR Passthrough API feels like a properly natural fit for the game and the type of play that it encourages.

It also harks back to Cubism’s origins as a game inspired by traditional wooden block puzzles, where you’re presented with several Cubism-like wooden blocks and have to find a way to fit them together into a perfect cube. Playing through Cubism’s more complicated, virtual versions of those traditional puzzles in an environment closer to real life feels apt, in a coming full circle kind of way.

In terms of limitations, the biggest at the moment is the hardware itself — the Quest cameras are only capable of producing a black and white image. There’s also no hand tracking support for Passthrough mode in this build — it’s still on the roadmap for a future build, but a few bugs have pushed the implementation out a bit.

The AR Passthrough mode also doesn’t natively provide a way for Cubism to interpret the passthrough image as a 3D space with barriers and objects that would collide with the game elements. This means that when I wasn’t careful, I could go to position a virtual block to rest on my desk, but it would sometimes float down ‘into’ the desk while remaining visible. The same principle applies to walls and other objects– blocks, if pushed, will simply move through or inside of objects, while also remaining visible to the player.

The new Passthrough mode probably won’t be available in a public Cubism build soon because the Passthrough API is still experimental, intended for developers and requires enabling the Quest’s Experimental Mode. Van Bouwel says Cubism’s public build will get the feature eventually, but only once the Passthrough API itself moves from an experimental feature to a public release. Nonetheless, this early Passthrough build of Cubism offers a glimpse of what to expect with future AR content on Quest and other headsets still to come.

New technology aside, Cubism is also set to receive new DLC levels soon. You can read more about the history of the game here.

Here’s VR Puzzler Gravity Lab Working In Quest 2’s AR Passthrough

Gravity Lab developer Mark Schramm has got his VR puzzler working with Quest 2’s passthrough API.

Earlier this month Facebook started to allow developers to experiment with the passthrough options on the standalone headset. Up until now, passthrough has only been used for Quest’s Guardian system, and developers haven’t had access to it. While teams still can’t release apps utilizing the API on the Quest store, we are starting to see the first experiments.

Take a look at a short gameplay clip below, first posted on Reddit.

In terms of Gravity Lab, that means bringing the game’s physics-based puzzles, in which players use different tools to transport objects to a goal zone, into AR. It works just like the core game – you play pipes, ramps and gravity manipulators in physical space. The only difference is this time the game’s happening in the real world, not a virtual environment. It’s essentially an AR version of Gravity Lab.

It’s a promising early look at what new kinds of experiences the Quest 2’s passthrough API could enable, although still clearly restricted by the black and white capture. Schramm didn’t give any indication that this experiment could one day actually be implemented into the game itself.

Gravity Lab itself is approaching its 5th birthday but is due to get a major update later this week that adds a time travel mechanic.

Space Invaders AR Mobile Game Announced From Square Enix Montreal

Today during the Square Enix Presents digital event a new Space Invaders AR mobile game was revealed in development by Square Enix Montreal in collaboration with TAITO.

Did you read that sentence up above? Well, that’s just about everything we know about the game so far. The teaser trailer is really just an extended recap of the history of Space Invaders and its globally recognized popularity. It features glimpses of arcade cabinets, people playing on a Game Boy, clothing with the little alien guy emblazoned on the side, and so on.

There is no gameplay footage or even a hint of what the gameplay will be like at all other than it’s an AR game and the aliens will “take over” reality.

A quick search on Google Play yields an existing knock-off Space Invaders-style AR game already, but the real deal might not be anything like this at all. However, something that uses your camera to introduce the aliens into the air around you by way of mobile AR seems to be the most likely result.

According to a press release it will blend “proprietary AR technology and modern art style” together by letting players “defend the world against an invasion wielding the magic of AR and the power of mobile devices.”

Space Invaders is one of the most iconic video games of all-time. It was so popular during its heyday that there is a widespread misconception that it led to a national 100 Yen coin shortage in Japan due to how many people were sinking their money into the arcade cabinets. That’s been proven false, but is still funny to think about.

There’s no date yet but it will be coming to both the Apple App Store and Google Play Store. You can sign up to be notified with more details at the official Space Invaders AR website.

Watch: Pokemon Go HoloLens Demo Uses Microsoft Mesh For Multiplayer Battles

Microsoft and Niantic demonstrated a Pokemon Go HoloLens demo at Microsoft Ignite today.

Alex Kipman, Technical Fellow for HoloLens, was joined virtually on-stage by Niantic CEO John Hanke who hinted at a multiplayer battle alongside product marketing manager Veronica Saron. The video featured a number of different Pokemon hanging out in the real world in a way that went far beyond what’s currently possible with the smartphone-based game. This demo was purely proof of concept; Microsoft made it clear this doesn’t represent a consumer product at this stage. Check out the video below.

The demo was designed to showcase Microsoft Mesh, the company’s new platform for building multi-user online experiences that work across HoloLens and a variety of other devices. We got to try out the platform last week and came away impressed with the possibilities. In the case of Pokemon Go — which doesn’t yet have a native app on HoloLens — it allows players to battle online across the world as if they’re in the same space.

Pokemon Go HoloLens

It’s an exciting development, though AR headsets like HoloLens are still too expensive and too limited for full consumer adoption. A Mesh-powered Pokemon Go on a future consumer-oriented version of HoloLens would be an incredible draw and it is hard not to see the demos as a hint that Microsoft knows that’s the direction it should be headed.

Hanke also appeared alongside James Cameron to talk about a new collaboration with OceanX to produce a ‘holographic laboratory’ for the OceanXplorer research and exploration vessel that users from around the world could visit remotely.

Mesh will be rolling out in a preview phase first as Microsoft continues to add more features to the platform.

Wallace & Gromit AR Story Now Available On Android & iPhone

An original Wallace & Gromit story built for augmented reality is now available on Android and iPhone.

You can pick up Wallace & Gromit: The Big Fix Up on Google Play or the Apple App Store. You play as a new employee of the iconic comedy duo’s latest company working to fix up the English city of Bristol.

The project is the result of a collaboration between Bristol-based Aardman and the creative storytellers at UK-based Fictioneers. It uses a 3D mapping platform called Fantasmo as well as Unity’s AR products to “bring the Bristol city centre to life at home,” according to a press release. The story is told through “AR gameplay, CG animations, in-character phone calls, extended reality (XR) portals, and comic strips.”

“Wallace & Gromit have innovation, gadgets, and technology at the comedic heart of their world. Working with Fictioneers to create The Big Fix Up has been a perfect fit, allowing us to bring the duo’s fantastic fictional contraptions right into our audiences homes using the latest real technology,” said Merlin Crossingham, Creative Director of Wallace & Gromit at Aardman, in a prepared statement.

Check out this teaser clip:

We haven’t had a chance to give it a try yet but we’ll be checking it out soon. If you’ve tested it on your phone please share your thoughts in the comments below. The creators are planning to release more products using the platform they developed for this Wallace & Gromit release, so if you enjoyed it there’s a chance they’ll make similar apps in the future.