Wednesday, November 02, 2011


I've been stuck on thinking about the flashlight projector. Original post included if you missed it.

I've been thinking about the sort of games and apps you might be able to create. This post will be pretty design-heavy.

The flashlight projects an image onto a surface. Fundamentally, that means you can put virtual things on the surface. These virtual things can be just something on the surface, such as a sticker or a logo. Alternately, they can represent things that aren't on the surface, but are only being displayed there.

Three examples of that are:

1) Displaying the piping and wiring in a wall by painting their image on the wall.

2) Casting a shadow on the wall from a virtual object between the flashlight and the wall. Shadow does not have to be actual dark patches - for example, the virtual object might be a stained glass bauble.

3) Showing what is beyond the wall on the surface of the wall. For example, a security guard could shine his flashlight on a wall and play the camera feeds for the room on the other side.

There is also the option to display simple virtual things on the surface, but use them in an information-dense manner. For example, painting a map on the surface, getting a footprint trail of people who passed through, or average rainfall displayed as inches of "water" splashing along the ground.

These are things which have nothing to do with a reality that currently exists, but are still deeply tied to the location, as opposed to simple virtual tagging.

So... what sort of games could you make out of it?


Let's start with the obvious one: let people paint on surfaces, then let other people see what they have painted.

This offers some unique limits and opportunities. First off, the flashlight is a physical object, and most people aren't going to want to seem weird by hunting around Manhattan with a flashlight during the day. It follows that the majority of tagging will happen in places with some foot traffic, but not too much (the weirdo with the flashlight) or too little (nobody else will see it). An alternative is places with very few people plus some kind of guidance/seeking system, which would be useful if there were few users.

If you're painting on surfaces rather than in space, you can take advantage of the nature of surfaces. Some surfaces are the same day in and day out. However, other surfaces are temporary or recurring. For example, if you paint the side of a parked car, you can only see that image when a car is parked in that same spot. If you paint someone's shirt, you can only see the image when someone is standing in that same place. Perhaps you can see blurry shadows if your light shines through where the surface should be, and then there's the fun of looking for places there were surfaces that people painted on, and temporarily recreating those surfaces.

Painting doesn't have to just be painting. Like, with a finger. There are a variety of things it could be.

I like the idea of "stamping". You have virtual possession of a thing. You then stamp it onto a surface, losing possession of it. Someone who sees it can peel it off and stick it in their inventory.

In some cases, this is probably ad-driven. Through the central "inventory management system", you can manage the unique tags for every stamp, regardless of what it actually is once it is on your computer. So if an online game wants to put up stamps for custom armor and a month of free play time, they can pay the central database a per-item fee to register it, and then go around stamping them out. You could also do coupons for the local stores, or even just flat-out billboard ads.

It's actually less obnoxious than normal ads because you, the player, can rip them down and throw them away (by "taking" them). The central database still gets the ad money.

But it'd be a pretty dull game if it was just about ads. So we have to think about how and what people would want to share.

Let's put it in three categories:

1) I want people to see this cool thing - the display case reason.

2) I want to put out rare and interesting things that make the world a bit more magical - the unicorn reason.

3) I want to share and work together on this thing - the garden reason.

The first category would consist of content you created, or links you've found. Basically, you could slap images and youtube videos and stuff onto various surfaces. The world could get very crowded if they never faded, so I think most of these would fade slightly if someone viewed them and did not "thumbs up" them. So after, say, 20 unique views without a thumbs-up, they vanish entirely. "Peeling" these off would not remove them from the world, but simply keep a local copy (if allowed). Depending on the rules, you may report illegal/inappropriate content, which would be removed/gated in much the same manner as any other kind of hosting service.

The second category is driven by the urge to make hidden things in the world, hidden things that people can find. For example, you might stumble across a red "thread" on a wall, which if you follow it, leads to a real-world grotto and a geotag-style treasure box. Or maybe you simulate how the night sky would look if it were completely dark in this city, and then paint the eves of buildings with it. Or you paint a mural, a little bit every day, so that visitors feel the need to check back frequently.

This kind of sharing is generally not quite as "loud" as the first kind, and is often slightly secret or hard to find. They're half treasure hunt. That's fine, sounds fun. Imagine finding a mural in midair (by the shadows the mural casts), and then spending fifteen minutes using your hand and the flashlight to pan across it and see it.

The third category - the social and cooperative creation of content in this virtual world - is definitely the most interesting to me. Imagine if there was a garden in some downtown nook - a virtual garden. People could come by and plant things, harvest things, and so on. Or there's a cooperative scene, where people can drop their "Mii"s and watch them play around. Or any number of other things.

The problem with this category is trolls. I imagine every site would need an "owner" who could veto, roll back, and ban. That might get logistically irritating. But, on the other hand, it offers another way to monetize: "if you want something that runs and changes over time and isn't, say, a static youtube video, you need to pay $5 per 100m of sim..."


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I don't know if you've ever played Metro 2033, but the idea of casting shadows on walls has some pretty chilling effects if done correctly. Using a flashlight in a less user-generated environment (I'm thinking haunted houses) could be a great way to AR-up established forms of physical entertainment.