Ingress, Google's Breakthrough Augmented Reality Game
Written by Lucy Black
Saturday, 24 November 2012
Ingress, Google's augmented reality multiplayer game is still in closed beta. Even so it is already becoming the most talked about, and perhaps even desired, AR app so far. But is it just a game or something more sinister?
Augmented reality is still in search of the killer app that makes it an accepted part of the user experience. You can argue that many AR apps have been successful, but nothing has managed to make a big hit on a mass market platform like Android. Now Google has produced its own AR game and it seems to be taking off like wildfire.
The game has been created by Niantic Labs, an in-house Google start-up that had already produced Field Trip, a geo-discovery app that acts as a tour guide by pointing out information about your current location.
Interest in Ingress prior to its launch on November 16th was heightened by leaks of its existence on the Niantic Project website and its YouTube video has already had more than a million views.
Ingress has a compelling storyline about a mysterious energy, called "exotic matter", uneartherd by a team of scientists in Europe - is the mention of Europe supposed to add other wordliness? Some researchers think the energy force is influencing the way we think - a sinister reference to some form of mind control. So the starting premise is:
This world around you is not what it seems. Our future is at stake, and you must choose a side.
The two sides are "The Enlightened" who seek to embrace the power that this energy may bestow upon us and "The Resistance" struggle to defend, and protect what's left of our humanity.
Having picked which side you are on you walk around your city collecting exotic matter to keep scanners charged and taking control of exotic-matter-exuding portals in order to capture more land for their team. All experienced via the Android's AR overlay on reality.
The game sounds fun and addictive - and having it available only to Android smartphone users who have received an invitation to play only adds to its desirability - but is it another way in which Google seeks to control our entire existance?
This games gets you away from your desk and into the real environment. While you concentrate on the virtual world Google is learning about the real world you inhabit, discovering where you are going and what you are doing while you play.
Is Google using Ingress as a proving ground for Project Glass, the augmented-reality glasses-based computer that will start to berolled out next year?
Google's moves into augmented reality may seem like enhancing the potential for adding game elements to users everyday environment, but the other side of the coin is that Google gathers more and more data about the everyday experience of consumers.