The gaming industry has never enjoyed a better a time, thanks to an impressive line up from companies including Activision Blizzard (ATVI), Electronic Arts (EA) and Take Two (TTWO), as well as regular upgrades from console makers including Microsoft (MSFT), Sony (SNE) and Nintendo. The recent surge in Silicon Valley’s interest in augmented reality (AR) has now propelled the scopes for this industry to hitherto unseen levels.
Meanwhile, Apple’s (AAPL) developer conference on Monday (WWDC 2018) hinted at another interesting emerging trend. AR could turn out to be the “Respawn” button for toymakers who are awaiting an imminent death due to the onslaught of digital gaming platforms. A demonstration done by Apple executive Craig Federighi at WWDC 2018 gives the initial cues.
Claiming that the tech giant’s ARKit is the world’s largest augmented reality platform in the world, Apple unveiled ARKit 2 on Monday. While it boasts of numerous new features including 3D object detection and realistic rendering, the most striking aspect of this update was the shared AR experiences.
So far, a specific virtual environment could be accessed by only one device at a time. It’s no longer so, and the implications are staggering. With ARKit 2, the same virtual world can be accessed and customized by multiple devices. A simple example (we are not there yet) would be that you are playing Pokemon Go, and you find a Charizard in your neighborhood. But if your neighbor is quick enough, he could catch the same Charizard before you.
Yes – a virtual multiplayer world.
ARKit 2 sets the stage for multiplayer AR games. While this is great news for the digital gaming companies, it can also become an elixir of life to toymakers including Hasbro (HAS), Mattel (MAT) and others. Lego is, meanwhile, already there. In a demonstration at the event, Lego’s Director of Innovation Martin Sanders gave a glimpse of what to expect when the physical meets the virtual.
Using an app, he converted a physical Lego building kept on a table to a virtual world, where he could add more buildings, characters, vehicles and storylines – similar to a digital game. The fact that ARKit 2 allows up to four users to access the same virtual space calls for digital-ish multiplayer games using physical sets. The detailing of the virtual world was rather spellbinding, especially the interiors of buildings. And in a surrealistic move, Sanders saved the game in the physical Lego building!
And all this came just a week after NVIDIA CEO shrunk a man using VR at the GTC Technology Conference in Taiwan (Watch the video here)
Of course, what we saw was just a teaser of the gaming industry’s future. But it also gave a ray of hope that the makers of the toys we loved as kids won’t go down the drain so quickly either. Only so if they utilize the opportunity.