If you have not yet gotten the sense of what that is all about, relax, I will comprehensively detail that herein. Beginning Wednesday, the 12th of February, an augmented reality treasure hunt by Econet will go live. This has the potential to be huge because online gaming is big money. Did you know that the popular Candy Crush game, on average, racks in over US$4 million daily? Once the treasure hunt goes live we will get to see how it will fare. I say so because one of the common shortcomings of augmented reality systems is on accuracy issues. Anyways, to put things into perspective let me start off by explaining what augmented reality is all about.
What Augmented Reality (AR) Is
People tend to think that augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) are the same, they are not! I will not delve much into distinguishing the two but I will just highlight a bit. VR solely deals with the use of computer-generated interfaces (CGI) or computer-generated realities. AR, on the other hand, deals with overlaying of digital data on the physical world in real-time. Most of you have watched the Terminator movies I am sure. How the Terminator would see the physical world, for example, being able to see the body dimensions of a person in real-time – that is AR. When you see instances of where someone puts on a special headset that makes them see a computer-generated world – that is VR. Great examples of AR in use are apps like Wanna Kicks and WiFi AR.
In order to basically understand what AR is you must know its 3 key attributes. One, it links the virtual and physical worlds – remember what is said about overlaying. The virtual world is overlaid onto the physical world. Two, this overlaying occurs in real-time plus it is interactive. Three, there is functionality to navigate or move in 3D.
Let Us Look At The Treasure Hunt
The treasure hunt will be an online game where upon logging in you will be presented with a map. The treasure hunt will be web-based as opposed to using a mobile app. The crux of the game will be to hunt for treasure hidden at particular locations. In essence, you will get certain virtual rewards which will be redeemable at Econet Shops. Getting the rewards will involve the use of your phone camera to navigate your way around. It will also entail being in proximity to an actual location. You must also bear in mind that the treasure hunt will be time-bound. This is just the basic framework of how the treasure hunt will be like but we will definitely know more when it goes live.
There are some unfortunate issues to consider regarding this awesome offering coming from Econet. I will not take away anything from Econet bringing to us such an amazing product. However, there are some things to consider that will get in the way of the smooth take-up of this product. The first one, obviously, is the high cost of data. Not many people will be able to afford to participate in this treasure hunt because data is expensive. Remember it is going to be a web-based thing so it will definitely demand lots of data.
The other concern regards the types of mobile smartphone handsets that people own. The vast majority of handsets do not have the necessary features that are compatible with AR. For instance, AR tends to work on smartphones with iOS devices with version 11.0 or later. Whilst on Android it tends to be on version 7.0, 8.0 or later. Couple that with the need for special types of sensors and high camera quality also. For example, it is mostly the iPhone 8 and later versions that have in-built seamless compatibility for AR. You can see that most people do not have smartphones that can support AR.
Supposing you do have a smartphone that has the necessary features, you still will not be out of the woods yet. Picture this scenario: when live using AR your phone display will be on (remember your display gobbles most of your battery power under normal circumstances) and your camera will also be on. On top of that, there are sensors that will be on and there will be demanding processes like image recognition at play. Not forgetting also that the GPS will also be switched on. All these battery-sucking elements will all be on at the same time. Consider how draining that will be on your phone’s battery; you will not even be able to play the game for that long.
There is no doubt about how cutting edge this augmented reality treasure hunt is. It being a first in Zimbabwe is a great deal but there are hurdles to be surmounted first. Otherwise, there is great potential in this innovation and I believe Zimbabweans will find it alluring.