Qualcomm has shown off three stand-out apps to Pocket-lint. These apps are unique because they use a new augmented-reality technology called Vuforia.
Vuforia has actually been around for a couple of years. In fact, there are more than 95,000 registered apps within Vuforia's ecosystem. About 9,000 of these apps have already launched in either Apple's App Store or the Google Play Store and dozens of them have more than 100,000 downloads.
During the 2014 Toy Fair earlier this year, we saw the following Vuforia apps on display: Kazooloo, Popar, and Colar. And they were pretty amazing. Not only did they deliver on their promise of supplying jaw-dropping 3D graphics - but they also made us wish we were kids again.
From gaming to learning, Vuforia-powered apps enable toy manufacturers and app developers to create super cool experiences for children (and even adults) that were never possible until now.
Qualcomm, a technology company and manufacturer based in California, has created an augmented reality platform and software kit for app developers. It's Vuforia. Vuforia enables apps to "see", according to Qualcomm. Specifically, Vuforia-powered apps can come to life with "unparalleled interactivity through 3D graphics, touch, video, and audio". Check out Pocket-lint's hand-on video above.
Disregarding all that marketing lingo, just remember that app developers can build apps around Qualcomm's Vuforia software. Their apps will then be able to recognise and track planar images via a mobile device's camera and turn those images into 3D virtual objects in real-time. The result makes it appear as though virtual 3D objects are a part of your real, physical world.
Vuforia can uniquely detect images on a cylindrical surface, recognise printed text and alpha-numeric sequences, simultaneously track up to five targets, and render realistic graphics for each target. That means it is highly reliable, allowing you to enjoy a realistic experience with high fidelity, rich interactivity, and compelling effects across a range of motions, lighting conditions, visibility, and viewing angles.
Israel-based Nordau Creative has created an action game for iOS and Android mobile devices called Kazooloo. But it's not just any ole' app: it features mind-blowing augmented reality graphics, thanks to Vuforia, and disc-shaped game boards. Qualcomm and Nordau Creative both showed Pocket-lint how Kazooloo works - and we were super impressed with the technology and gameplay.
So, how does it work? Download one of Kazooloo's free apps (Kazooloo, Kazooloo Z, and Kazooloo G) on your smartphone or tablet. Each app needs a corresponding Kazooloo board. The Kazooloo app works with the Vortex board, for instance, while the Kazooloo Z and Kazooloo G apps work with the Zordan and Ogger boards, respectively. The boards are available in small sizes for $14.90 each or large sizes for $39.90 each.
Once you downloaded the right app and received the right board, simply flop the board onto the floor or a table, then load the app, and pair the board to your phone by entering an ID number. Prepare to be amazed. The Kazooloo app will make the dragon on the Vortex board come to life. During our demo, the dragon began to crawl out of the board, wings flapping and everything, and then it flew into the air and started attacking us. We had to use the Kazooloo app to fight back.
You need to keep your mobile device's camera focused on the board to continue fighting your opponent, but you're still free to move around the board and dodge attacks. The better you do at fighting back by using the built-in weapon choices, the more coins and first aid kits you earn. These rewards will help you stay alive and defeat the Vortex dragon.
We were able to play and fight without any hiccups (even when people kept walking in front of the board). This type of accurate functionality was largely due to Qualcomm's Vuforia, which enabled Kazooloo to deliver an interactive experience despite the showroom lighting, noisy atmosphere, jerky movements, and physical disruptions.
Kazooloo targets children, though adults will find its games equally enjoyable. They're not only great in terms of entertainment, but they also require some physical activity, which, in our opinion, gives Kazooloo an extra layer of awesomeness.
Popar is an Arizona-based toy manufacturer and app developer that uses Vuforia to create immersive experiences for children. It makes puzzles, books, and charts - and each product works with a corresponding Popar viewing app to make 3D objects and animations appear in real-time. Popar supports iOS and Android smartphones and tablets.
There's a Dinosaurs 3D Book, for instance, which serves up detailed animations, games, and educational read-alongs. Vuforia allows dinosaurs to actually leap from the book's pages, enabling you to learn and retain information in an interactive and enjoyable way. There's also a Football 3D Puzzle Game with 300 pieces It lets you virtually run down a field and dodge obstacles in an augmented-reality training session.
Popar even has a Human Anatomy 3D Chart - where the human anatomy jumps off the poster. The chart allows you to explore and interact with the heart, brain, digestive system, and more. Other Popar charts include include a solar system chart, world and landmarks chart, periodic table of elements chart, etc. Chart prices range from $16.99 to $34.99, while puzzles and books cost $12.99 each and $19.99 each, respectively.
Pocket-lint really liked the learning aspect of Popar's products. Although they are fun and game-like, they also offer tons of educational tools and information. We could really see children loving to learn with Popar. Also, during our demo of Popar, we were able to use all the products without any wonkiness occurring. Like Kazooloo, Vuforia brought a reliable AR experience that worked in almost any environment or situation.
Developer Puteko has a free app called Colar Mix that works with free Colar template pages. Colar is different from Kazooloo and Popar in that it gives 3D-life to your hand-drawn or hand-coloured artwork. You can download a Colar template page to enjoy the traditional physical colouring experience, but then you can download the Colar Mix app to watch your Colar artwork crawl, dance, and jump off the page.
If you draw a doodle on one of Colar's template pages, for instance, the Colar Mix app will recognise your sketch and turn it into a 3D-shape such as spherical balls that bounce around in real-time. If you just colour one of Colar's own drawings, Colar Mix will turn the drawing into interactive character. It'll even move around with other Colar drawings and become a full-fledged animation.
You can watch the animation occur from any angle, as well as zoom in and out, or even play and pause the animation. During our demo of Colar, we were able to sketch a drawing of a dragon and then use the Colar Mix app to make the dragon appear as a spherical ball. We also coloured in pumpkins and watched them leap and transform in "living" things.
Colar Mix is available for iOS and Android smartphones and tablets. You need to keep your mobile device's camera focused on the Colar template page to continue watching the animation. However, like Kazooloo and Popar, Colar is very accurate and reliable. It therefore doesn't lag or mess up when something happens including when a drawing is partially covered. That makes Colar ideal for young children, who are often fidgety and messy.
What are some other Vuforia apps?
As mentioned earlier, there are thousands of apps using Qualcomm's Vuforia technology. Pocket-lint also saw a demo of Vuforia SmartTerrain at Qualcomm's Uplinq conference in San Diego last autumn. Qualcomm showed us how a person could quickly take a coffee table (with a tissue box and a vase on top) and put it in a 3D landscape in which to play.
Using a sub-technology within SmartTerrain, called SmartMesh, Qualcomm's software worked out the structure of the objects and assigned a mesh to them accordingly. A quick press of a button covered the coffee table in grass, then made the objects into rock structures, and populated the game with enemies. To learn more about Qualcomm's Vuforia SmartTerrain, check out Pocket-lint's story or the video above.