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Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Gunman for iPhone lets you take down your friends in augmented reality

Gunman for iPhone (screenshot 003)

Who would you rather shoot at: Real-life rouge agents played by your friends or abstract pixels? Enter Gunman, the first augmented reality shooter for the iPhone

that taps the enemy recognition technology to take care of the body count.

The iPhone OS 3.1 update brought along a sought-after new capability enabling developers to create the so-called augmented reality programs. Basically a cross between the virtual and real world, augmented reality comes to life when live video feed is overlaid with a computer-generated imagery, such as shopping information, building stats, etc. In the case of Gunman, a unique urban paintball-like shooter that puts you in the crossfire, augmented reality is its killer feature. Instead of chasing virtual foes and waste time playing preloaded levels, Gunman liberates the gameplay from the confines of your device and takes it to the real-life. As a result, you and your friends are put directly in the line of fire.

The seemingly simple idea opens up a whole new world of possibilities. Suddenly, everyday objects like chairs, lockers, trees, buildings, and trashcans become quick hiding place where you dig in before the shots start flying. You can play against a friend in one on one mode or connect with up to four friends via WiFi for hardcore mayhem. When you select a mode, you are required to pick the shirt color of your enemy (red, green, blue, gray, and white), and the match duration (2 minutes, 5 minutes, and unlimited). When you’re all set, hit the “Start Mission” button and you’ll get transported to – the real world.

Use the live video coming from your iPhone’s built-in camera to track your friends. If they’re too far, pinch zoom the scope. When you have the enemy inside a crosshair overlay, tap the “Fire” button (shake the device to reload). Each hit buzzes the enemy’s device and vice versa. The game saves a screenshot after each hit so you can review them in case of any ambiguities. You can also save your favorite shots to the camera roll and tweet images of your best hits. Both hits and misses are counted so keep in mind that accuracy matters.

Does it really work?

If the above concept sounds too futuristic, don’t worry – Gunman works flawlessly. The game uses a nifty trickery based on the color detection technology to determine whether you have hit your enemy – that’s why you have to pick your opponents’ shirt colors. Gunman then uses this information when analyzing the live video feed in order to determine if a guy was inside a crosshair when the shoot had been fired. The developer “trained” the algorithm, but warned its accuracy varies depending on the lighting conditions.

In order to test the limits of the engine, I asked a friend of mine to “shoot” me with my iPhone 3G outdoors at around 8pm, when only street lights lit the scene. As shown in the images below, it was snowing outside and I was wearing the red jacket and black cap. Much to my surprise, Gunman detected all hits, although I was standing some 30 yards away from a friend who had to pinch-zoom his scope to the max.

Gunman for iPhone (dujkan in sight 001)Gunman for iPhone (dujkan in sight 002)Gunman for iPhone (dujkan in sight 003)
I’m hiding behind a tree (left). Lookie who’s here (middle) – but a friend still doesn’t have a clear shot, so he pinch zooms (right) a scope.

I had less success under artificial lights indoors. As you know, the iPhone’s camera produces yellow-tinted, grainy images under low-light conditions or artificial light sources. As a result, accuracy of the color detection technology did drop notably. If you’re playing the game in daylight or under acceptable lighting conditions, the aforementioned caveats won’t apply to you the tiniest bit.

Needless to say, the game plays the best on a speedy iPhone 3GS due to a higher frame rate of its camera and faster processing that makes all the difference for the color detection engine. I have only played the game on my iPhone 3G, but a net buddy who purchased Gunman for his iPhone 3GS swears by his name he experienced none of the occasional jerkiness that I did on my device. Iit is my subjective estimate that Gunman maintains 12-15 frames per second in daylight on the iPhone 3G, which is in line with the video recording apps for the jailbroken iPhone 3Gs.

Conclusion: A whole new playing experience

The next Gunman update that’s already in development will support geolocation features and online leaderboards. It’ll also add achievements and badges in mulitplayer and new weapons like semi-automatic rifles and grenades. Gunman is, to my knowledge, the first augmented reality shooter for your iPhone and a damn fine one, too. Of course, there’s no point in playing this game if you don’t add your friends to the mix. Truth be told, the game sports the Pro mode where you take aim at innocent bystanders, but it simply saves the first 30 shots for your review at the end of the match and doesn’t use the color detection technology so it gets old after a while.

That said, if you were looking for a single player shootout, Gunman probably isn’t for you. But if you do have real life friends who own the iPhone, I strongly recommend you all take a break from playing games alone in your bedrooms. Instead, grab a copy of Gunman and take your iPhone for a spin outdoors. You’ll enjoy incredible and real-life fun, you’ll socialize, and your atrophied muscles will thank you. Gunman is being developed by Shadowforce and it works only on the iPhone due to the lack of built-in camera on the iPod touch

. The game requires iPhone OS 3.1 or later and is a $2.99 download from the App Store.