The Draw & Code team were frustrated by the solitary nature of a typical virtual reality experience. We envisioned a platform that would allow users to see and interact with each other inside the virtual world.
We were not alone in our frustrations with the limitations of virtual reality with industry giants Nintendo stating that they will not be joining the rush to build headsets as they believed that the nature of the experience was too solitary and not social enough.
Another limitation we identified is that 3D experiences such as video games are typically used within one ecosystem. A fundamental part of the success of the web and social networks is that users can interact with each other regardless of whether they have a PC, a Mac, an Android tablet or an Apple phone. What we wanted was to foster a crossplay in XR; a way to open up 3D experiences to almost any device, allowing for unprecedented ease of use and interaction.
Our solution is Companion – a tool that enables developers to sync up multiple devices into one 3D world. In the prototype we have run several devices simultaneously, ranging from the latest Samsung Gear VR headset to our trusty laptops.
This also presents the possibility of moving the virtual reality experience to outside of the headset. While one person inhabits the first-person virtual reality view, we have other users interacting from a third-person augmented reality perspective.
Each user can see an avatar representing the other, creating a truly engaging and social experience that encourages collaboration in the 3D world or even vocally between users.
A gaming application utilising Companion was developed in-house by Draw & Code and exhibited to industry peers in Silicon Valley, London and Liverpool. It uses a quickly understood gaming mechanic to enable the user to dive straight in and enjoy it – in this case it’s Pac Man with an element of the Crystal Maze thrown in too!
Player one is in VR and seeing a low-poly and high-colour maze from a first-person perspective. From here the maze is daunting with twists and turns aplenty and high walls making navigation a frustrating challenge. However, players two and three use either augmented reality or a conventional 3D view to obtain an aerial vista. From here they can talk their fellow players through the experience. Not only that, as the mobile AR device moves in physical space, it moves in the 3D world too, creating fun and physical interactions between players.
The innovative application and the philosophy of accessibility that inspired it has been a real hit. The next stage is to find industry specific applications of the IP generated by Companion.