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Human PacMan hits real city streets



The classic arcade game PacMan has resurfaced on the streets of Singapore using “augmented reality” technology developed by military-backed scientists at the University of Singapore.



While virtual reality immerses a user completely inside a computer-generated environment, augmented reality combines both real and virtual sensory information to produce a digitally-altered version of the real world.



The original arcade game, released in 1980, involves using a joystick to move a tiny yellow character - PacMan - around a two dimensional mazelike grid on a video screen. Cookies are scattered throughout the grid and PacMan’s aim is to munch as many as possible while avoiding being caught by the Ghosts chasing him.



The new game, called Human PacMan, superimposes a 3D PacMan world on top of the city's streets and architecture. Players enter the game by donning a wearable computer, headset and goggles before choosing to play the role of PacMan or one of the Ghosts. Players' movements are tracked using GPS receivers and motion sensors and they are linked back to a central computer system by wireless Local Area Network.



The rules are the same as in the original, but the new game combines real and virtual elements. For example, the yellow cookies that PacMan eats to earn points are generated virtually and superimposed on the street ahead of a player via their goggles. But real sugar jars, fitted with Bluetooth radio transceivers, are dotted around the streets for players to collect.



Outside contact



Those inside the game can catch other characters by grabbing their shoulder. But they can also interact with people outside the game, who can watch their progress and send messages from computer terminals.



Adrian Cheok, who developed Human PacMan with colleagues at the National University of Singapore’s Mixed Reality Lab, says the project has a serious purpose. "Human PacMan has its roots in serious research about humans’ interaction with their physical world," he writes on the project's homepage.



The main challenge with augmented reality is integrating virtual and real information accurately, adds Andrei State at the University of Northern Carolina. "The computer needs to know where you are, what you are doing and what is in the real world," he told New Scientist. "Basically you need really good tracking."



Some of the first applications of such technology, though on a much smaller physical scale, could be medical. Various research groups are already working on augmented reality systems that could assist surgeons performing complicated procedures, State says.



Military use



But augmented reality systems might also find application on the battlefield, where information could be superimposed across visual displays worn by soldiers, who could then also be tracked remotely by a central command. It could further be used in engineering, where it would enable users to see their plans implemented before construction work begins.



However, computer games that combine virtual and real elements are already creeping into arcades. The Japanese dancing games Dance Dance Revolution and ParaParaParadise, for instance, require players to perform real dance moves, sensed on a dance mat, in order to gain points.



Other research groups have also produced complex augmented reality games. A team at the University of South Australia has developed a version of the popular computer game Doom superimposed across a player's view of their university's campus.



But Cheok believes that his game is the most advanced yet. "Human PacMan is pioneering a new form of gaming that anchors on physicality, mobility, social interaction, and ubiquitous computing," he adds.



State agrees that augmented reality games have huge potential appeal. "I can imagine that, in a game like laser tag, it could add to the excitement and addictiveness," he says.

2 comments:

At November 18, 2004 at 11:52 AM Dan_Henry said...

BJ,

"But augmented reality systems might also find application on the battlefield, where information could be superimposed across visual displays worn by soldiers, who could then also be tracked remotely by a central command."

Remember there's a good short mvis video that shows:
-current augmented vision monochrome red
-future augmented reality monochrome red
-future augmented reality color

http://www.microvision.com/nomadmilitary/video_fbcb2.html

-Dan

 
At November 18, 2004 at 1:02 PM Ben said...

not to mention the awesome Stryker video:
http://www.mvis.com/nomadmilitary/stryker_index.html

great stuff.
bj

 

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