Game of Gnomes: AR on PowerVR made simple

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Recently, Imagination attended GDC 2018, presenting an opportunity for game developers to get the latest info on our recent hardware and learn more about our new, groundbreaking developer tools. At our booth, we had a number of demos on show and one of these was an AR application we dubbed ‘Game of Gnomes’ (for no other reason than we love a good* pun). This demo showed how straightforward it is to use PowerVR GPUs to create AR applications.

Since it first came to widespread public acclaim in the summer of 2016 with Pokemon Go, it’s fair to say that augmented reality (AR) is still looking for a breakout application. However, many still believe it has great potential for new and exciting applications.

To build AR applications there are a number of platforms developers use, the most popular of which are ARKit for iOS, ARCore and Vuforia. Our application was built using the latter, as unlike ARCore, it doesn’t require Google to qualify the devices first to run, making it a more flexible option. Our device of choice was a Meizu Pro 7 Plus, which used a MediaTek Helio X30 chipset featuring a PowerVR Series7XT Plus GPU.

Vuforia uses computer recognition techniques to detect and tracks markers, such as printed pieces of paper, in view of the device’s camera and lets you attach 3D objects to them. You can then use these to create objects that can interact with the real world and even obscure parts of them to certain actions – a virtual button if you will. For example, the gnome marker has a ‘press here’ button on it which triggers the Gnome to wave (see video) once Vuforia detects a finger blocking the marker. And who doesn’t love a waving gnome?

While these give you control of the object in the real world space, the markers are a requirement to create your application, which will make the use of VR a less spontaneous experience for the user. It’s also important to get these markers, also known as Image Targets, designed properly in order to get the application to recognise them. Essentially, they must have a sufficient the number of features detected in the image on the marker. A limitation of the Vuforia marker system is that one of them is required to define the ‘world’ space, which means you can’t rotate the marker too much in case it stops being detected.

In our demo, as you can see from the video above, if you place a marker down a gnome sitting on top of a throne will appear on top, surrounded by accompanying mushrooms. Well, that’s not something you see every day.

Game of gnomes screenshot
Using another marker will cause a group of animated soldiers holding shields and spears to appear, while a third marker will present another group of similarly armed soldiers wearing different colour clothes. Clearly, the groups of soldiers are bitter rivals as if you move the cards together the front row of soldiers will start to attack each other. It’s ‘U’ rated though – and no blood is spilt**.

It’s simple, basic interactivity, but for anyone familiar with programming using an SDK, it is easy to put together and demonstrates the effectiveness of PowerVR as an AR platform.

If you’re looking for more gnome-based applications, then you should also check our this one which we had on show at GDC this year, which put gnome faces onto those who visited our booth and if you’ve got any questions about developing on PowerVR, remember that you can ask questions on our forum.

You can also follow us on social media here on Twitter for updates at @ImaginationTech and @PowerVRInsider and also on LinkedInFacebook and Google+.

*OK, terrible
**No soldiers were harmed in the making of this demo. Well, only a couple anyway.

Benny Har-Even

Benny Har-Even

With a background in technology journalism stretching back to the late 90s, Benny Har-Even has written for many of the top UK technology publications, across both consumer and B2B and has appeared as an expert on BBC World Business News and BBC Radio Five Live. He is now Content Manager at Imagination Technologies.

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