Thus far Pokémon Go has dominated the loudest discussions of augmented reality in video games, even though its interactions with the surrounding environment essentially amount to little more than a video feed of the area beyond the camera. Developer HoloFriends' The Floor is Lava makes much better use of the technology by adapting the classic kid's game for Microsoft's HoloLens.
As a new YouTube video from the Holo Herald channel shows, it's pretty true to the concept in that it transforms your living room carpet into that hot stuff that pumps out of Mauna Loa. The main exception is that you now need an expensive gadget strapped to your noggin to play.
Much as in many augmented reality apps, the HoloLens scans the surrounding furniture and floor prior to starting the game in order to map out the interactive area. If all goes well, The Floor is Lava accurately singles out the actual floor to turn into lava. There's even a scoring system to it, which requires the user to head toward floating ice cream cones and popsicles (that must be extremely heat resistant) and yell out "Nom!" to gulp them down.
It's currently a little rough in practice. The lava's graphics frequently overlap with thinner elements scattered across the floor or disappear entirely, and sometimes the game doesn't register when Paul of the Holo Herald attempts to gulp down the ice cream in the video. Small wonder, then, that there's only a short visual penalty for stepping in the lava. "It takes longer to set up than it does to actually play the game, and sometimes it glitches out a bit, but obviously it's a work in progress," Paul says.
He also rightly points out that The Floor is Lava is a good app for testing out the HoloLens' environmental mapping features (provided, of course, you have one of the devices, which are currently only available to developers). The interaction between the physical and digital worlds is one of the most exciting things about augmented reality, and fresh ideas surrounding the concept are finally starting to snowball into something remarkable.
Just a few weeks ago, for instance, we wrote about Occipital's new Bridge device, which uses the iPhone in a headset to allow users to switch between virtual and augmented reality. It, too, features lightweight games of a sort, including a tutorial robot that scuttles under coffee tables and chairs to the ability to look through a portal in your living room and into a spaceship or some other setting.