Thanks to augmented reality, the world is about to get weird. Real weird. Thankfully we’re not the only ones who think so, because Nexus Studios, the minds behind the inside-out VR tracking solution using ARKit, today launched HotStepper, an iOS wayfinding app that follows an infectiously strange little man that beckons you to follow him on the way to your destination.
Simply enter an address, and your hot-stepping sidekick will guide you there, replete with a jaunty little walk and a few other moves worth watching.
Nexus Studios, a film and interactive media studio split between LA and London offices, says that the app combines the very latest in AR, geo-location and mapping technology. Nexus says their Interactive Arts team built a system that uses a combination of GPS coordinates, your phone’s IMU and mapping data in order to calculate your location and render HotStepper.
The studio says they’ve developed a new suite of tools to ensure HotStepper looks as realistic as possible (for a cartoon walking around the real world, that is). To give him a real-world quality that he’d otherwise lack if simply dropped into AR, the app takes the camera feed and essentially reflects the environment onto your chubby half-naked companion, making him fit more naturally in the environment with dynamic shading. Aiming to make him even more ‘realistic’, the app also programmatically makes a calculation about where the sun is in relation to HotStepper himself so his shadow is rendered correctly too.
HotStepper was animated in VR through their an animating tool of their own creation, VLO. Nexus says VLO will be releasing soon.
“HotStepper is part of a series of research projects we’re doing into storytelling using real-world data. We’re super excited to be exploring this new frontier and with HotStepper we’ve combined multiple innovations to bring to life a playful dude creating a fun way to get somewhere. The HotStepper has a complex steering algorithm that uses different types of data to keep him on the path and walking in the right direction. It’s only as good as the GPS data though so absolutely use your common sense when perhaps it appears he hasn’t!” said Nexus Studios Head of Interactive Arts Luke Ritchie.
While it’s hard to imagine using such an app for day-to-day walking directions, it certainly adds a bit of flair to an otherwise boring function. Not only that, the possibility of having such a helpful character to inject a little fun into your day when AR glasses come to the consumer market from household names, which could be as soon as 2020, is basically a dream we’ve all had as kids.
HotStepper is now available for Apple devices supporting iOS 11. Android support coming soon.