Pantomime Corporation has today released the first interactive augmented reality software that runs networked across iPads, iPhones and Macs, without requiring a virtual reality headset, glasses, or other special hardware. The software, now available in the App Store and Mac App Store as “Pantomime Bug Farm”, lets users reach in and play with virtual creatures — evade, shove and squash them, fling them across tables, toss realistic objects at them, feed them, and grow them to enormous size — in 3D scenes that immerse their devices in shared, networked worlds.
Consumer Virtual Worlds: No Headset Needed, Less Invasive, More Interactive
In Pantomime’s new consumer-friendly form of augmented reality, every screen shows 3D animation of other mobile devices in the scene, users’ animated hands holding them, other immersed laptop and desktop computers, and live augmented reality elements that interact realistically. Patented algorithms provide fast, accurate motion tracking that turns any iPad or iPhone into both a first person 3D display and a gyro-stabilized paddle for reaching in.
Immersive Worlds that Scale for Consumers
With Pantomime’s unique scalable architecture, a user can enjoy complete interactive first-person experiences with an iPad or iPhone; two or more participants can play in the same world; and multiple desktop and laptop computers can provide a wide, distributed display that spans a room – or multiple rooms – on the WiFi network.
In most virtual and augmented reality systems, “immersive” means that to see a virtual world, users must wear a stereo display over their eyes, seeing an edgeless 180 degree view. Most of the room — their hands, their devices, the other people in it — is hidden. Usually there is only one user, no way to reach in, and users without a headset are completely excluded.
Pantomime’s patented approach turns this inside out: ordinary tablets, phones and computers become portals into virtual worlds, as if their screens are made of glass, so anyone in the room can see in. Mobile devices become both first person displays and accurate game paddles for reaching in. Multiple devices on the network can Teleport to interact in the same world, and be seen by the other participants. As devices are added to the scene, the number of players, viewers, screens, field of view and ability to interact can increase gradually. So with Pantomime, immersive augmented reality is about letting users see virtual worlds that include the many screens and devices that surround them in reality.
Handheld, Table Top and Portable Augmented Reality
With Pantomime, the core illusion of virtual reality — an independent 3D world being viewed through a moving display — is achieved using models of how each mobile device is being handled in the virtual world. Typically a device is being balanced or tumbled on a virtual table, or grabbed with a thumb on the screen and swung like a paddle. Pantomime recognizes these cases, and the user’s precise grip, to let users look around, turn, lift the device to look straight down on a table, sweep objects off its surface, walk it on its corners, and perform other physically realistic actions — as well as aim and throw objects through the screen by tapping. Whether a mobile device is being balanced on a table or swung like a paddle, its user’s nimble animated virtual hands can be seen handling it and interacting. At the same time, the experience is completely mobile: users can lift and move the device to any comfortable position, and stroll or ride in a vehicle with it. Until it is turned, the virtual world isn’t affected.
Interactive Bug Farm Scene
In the Bug Farm world, users’ devices are pursued by predatory bugs. Users can evade them by moving, keep them at bay by throwing balls, shove them, squash them against the table under their mobile device, fling them off it with a paddle swing, attract them with bait balls, and feed them other insects until they’re huge.
Bug Farm is just one scene in an extensive Pantomime Playground™ experience that lets users choose scenes like Dominos and Bowling, and select Throwable objects to play with, letting them create completely unique experiences.
Macs Immersed in Augmented Reality
Today’s release includes apps in both the iOS App Store and the Mac App Store. When Macs join a virtual world, 3D models of them are visible to other players and devices in the scene, and in mirrors in the virtual worlds. MacBook Pro, MacBook Air, iMac and other models are automatically recognized by the cross-platform software, along with iPad, iPad mini and iPhone models. While users can enjoy a full interactive experience with a single iPad, and connect with other mobile devices, a large Mac screen in the scene becomes a kind of augmented reality game console, letting users look through the mobile devices, or focus on the larger screens while treating iPad and iPhones as see-through game paddles.
Consumer On-Ramp to Virtual Reality
Pantomime co-founder and CEO and virtual reality pioneer Dr. David Levitt explains, “Reaching into interactive, shared virtual worlds doesn’t really require a headset. By uncoupling them, instead of being limited to the first few million early adopters of virtual reality headsets, Pantomime can delight users with apps and networked worlds that run on billions of consumer tablets, phones and PCs. When players see how much wider their view and other advantages can be in the same scene, a head mounted VR display can be an natural, optional upgrade.”
About Pantomime Corporation
Pantomime Corporation was founded in 2014 by virtual reality pioneer Dr. David Levitt and Don Hopkins of The Sims, soon joined by Eric Hedman of The Sims Expansion Packs. Advisors include Arthur van Hoff of cinematic virtual reality leader Jaunt, and videogame pioneer Nolan Bushnell. The company headquarters is in Sebastopol, California.