Engaged. Kids Love Augmented Reality.

C-3PO and Chewbacca play Dejarik in Star Wars IV: A New Hope
R2-D2 and Chewbacca play Dejarik while C-3PO looks on, in Star Wars IV: A New Hope

One the strongest cinematic memories from my childhood is from Star Wars (surprise surprise). C-3Po R2-D2 and Chewbacca are playing a type of holographic chess on the Millennium Falcon, passing the time as they speed through space. The game pieces move and interact with each other and— even cooler— they fight! I wanted one of these Dejarik sets, and dreamed of a time when holographic games and toys became a reality.

Judging by the last few months on the internet, that time is well on its way. Augmented Reality is set to bring those holographic moments to anyone with a computer and a webcam, or even a mobile phone. Last night I gave my kids a printout of the newest Star Trek poster and told them to hold it up to the computer screen (at Experience the Enterprise). I watched their surprised faces when, on screen, they were suddenly holding a diminutive replica of a three-dimensional spaceship. Both of them loved the experience, and immediately started testing it’s boundaries: how much could they bend the paper, how far away could they stand, how close could they bring the paper into the camera. It was amazing to watch them instinctively push the limits of the technology. My son kept looking at the computer and then back at the paper he was holding, trying to figure out why it was invisible in real life.

Sebastian, Age 4, Experiences Augmented Reality for the First Time

They would have played with the USS-Enterprise for hours if I had let them, just like a brand new toy. This particular AR could fire torpedoes and phasers, and simulate flying at warp speed. How many other toys have that ability? It’s still a bit clunky and you really tire of holding a piece of paper up to a screen for a long time, but for a technology that is just begining to come out of its shell, it’s a wonderous experience.

I’m looking forward to the LucaArts AR gameboard that let’s me play Dejarik on my coffee table. Are you listening George?

Update: Here are a few more bonus pictures: