AR app review

Because of the topic of my research paper, I am reviewing the AR game that came out for Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen.  The first thing I noticed was that it takes an inordinate amount of time to load.  First it makes you download an ActiveX Plugin and install it.  Apart from that, it did not tell the user anything else to do.  I consider myself a power user; and it took me a few moments to realize that once I downloaded the plugin, it did not start installing automatically.  The install window was hidden behind my browser.  When I finally installed the plugin, the site had to then download a polygonal image for the app.  When it was done, I saw a dropdown menu that was asking what kind of camera I wanted to use.  It had already detected my onboard camera on my laptop; so I didn’t think I had to do anything more.  Below this, meanwhile, the screen showed a progress bar that seemed to be stuck on 25% for about five minutes.  I thought the website was just loading something else; but it wasn’t.  I finally decided the click a button at the top that said, “Detect Camera.”  The progress bar immediately went away and the app finally started.

The app tracks your face in 3D space and inserts Optimus Prime’s head for yours.  It worked until I was about six inches away from the camera and I was not able to break it from as far away as five feet from the camera.  I put my hand in front of my face to test the facial recognition and it broke the app, as expected.  When I put my hand down, the app took about a half second to bring the Prime head up again.  The polygonal model was fairly high-quality and was see-through in certain parts, making it look like your head was really inside the Prime one.

There were two other aspects to this app.  The first one was simply a sound board you could play with that had ten soundbites from Optimus Prime in the movie.  They were very good quality.  The other aspect was somewhat of a disappointment because it doesn’t work anymore.  You could click a button that said, “Robotocize your voice.”  Presumably, you could say anything and the app would filter it to sound like Optimus Prime.  The movie came out in 2008; but I see no reason why they would have removed only this part of the app.  It definitely was not my computer.  The aforementioned button was simply grayed out, as if it is not a choice anymore, not allowing you to click on it.

As far as theory goes, let’s look at this using uses and gratifications theory.  The theory talks about how people not only seek out things in the media to fill a certain need; they want those things to enhance knowledge, social interactions, and diversion (Wikipedia.org).  So, the need for someone to look up and try this app is because they are interested in the movie, “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen.”  I’m not sure this app succeeds even on this first step.  It’s more of a glorified toy than something with real information.  Does the app enhance knowledge?  No.  I know nothing more about the movie than I already knew from seeing the Optimus Prime character on the movie poster.  I still just know that he’s in the movie.  Does it enhance social interactions?  No, but I don’t think it was really trying to.  Does it enhance diversion?  No, but again I don’t think that was a goal here.

The goal of this app was clearly to market the film.  In that respect, it did not succeed.  There really was not any promotional material in it.  There was nothing about the film’s plot or characters.  There was not a link to relating to that, either.  It is a cool special effect; but it’s something that I’ve seen before.  The wow factor is just not there.  Maybe in 2008, this would have been more amazing to me.  But in 2011, it is behind the times.  AR games need to actually be games, not just a screen that sticks something over your head.

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