Every week, I sit down with friends to play Dungeons & Dragons. But it's not like it is in Stranger Things where we have exactly the right miniature for every situation. Even our most avid miniature collector has to substitute in one monster for another on the map or resort to using glass gems as markers. It's not like Holochess in Star Wars, either. But the latter is beginning to look like a reasonable dream with a fan project meant to bring the powers of augmented reality to bear on the pen-and-paper role-playing classic.
The creator downplays the work he's doing, but it's really cool. The game is plenty of fun with our imaginations used to fill in the place of those red and blue glass markers, but it would be something else to see our heroes and monsters actually animated on our tables – even if it's just through a phone.
The team is still in early stages, but the work they're doing isn't unlike previous augmented reality solutions. There are cards with different scannable codes on them, and as each code appears in front of the camera, it loads up that monster or character. The team is even working on bringing terrain into the mix with cards for maps and terrain elements.
While there are certain limitations to a small project like this, the potential for it is huge and I'd love to see them turn it into something big. I can imagine a future where we can build our perfect characters in an extensive Skyrim-style character creator and then print out a code that lets us put our own character, exactly as we imagined it, on the table across from the dragon we're fighting.
The applications of augmented reality are almost endless, and this is just one among many. But it's a great way to show how that gap between imagination and play can be bridged with some useful technology. AR isn't just for Pokemon GO anymore.
And even if it distracts from live play, sites like Roll20 are making remote-play D&D easier than ever to play, and I know as many remote-play groups as I do live play these days. For those groups, this could be a killer app that ramps up the immersion.
If you're interested in following the project, the creators have set up a page just for that. They aren't sure if it'll stay a hobby, make its way to Kickstarter, or what, but it's worth keeping an eye on if you dig D&D, augmented reality, or both.
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