We’ve all heard the famed Arthur C. Clarke (adapted) quote: "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." The phonograph must have felt like this back when people heard recordings for the first time, just like the first gen iPhone could quickly draw a crowd through it’s unbelievable touchscreen.
But now, a group called MoveableCode, creatively helmed by Kevin Mowrer, the former worldwide head of R&D for Hasbro (including products like Magic: The Gathering and Dungeons & Dragons), is trying to literally bring magic to technology. Their new Kickstarter project is called the Incantor. It’s a Bluetooth wand--a magic wand--that senses your gestures as casted spells in a role-playing game networked between phones worldwide.
“The premise of Incantor is magic made real. It’s all about wish fulfillment,” explains MoveableCode’s Nicholas Napp. “I think everyone that loves fantasy has secretly wanted magic to be real.” It’s a cutting argument when you ask yourself, how many of us read every one of the Harry Potter books and then saw the films, too? Yet in the new wave of appcessories--iPhone peripherals that sync via software--the Incantor offers an experience that feels both completely superfluous and entirely irreplaceable. One one hand, my phone already has an accelerometer and haptic feedback. It can do everything this wand can do…except for one thing you won’t see on any spec sheet: It doesn’t feel like magic.
“Incantor is designed to be an immersive and engaging fantasy. Players can go as deep into the universe we are creating as they like,” explains Napp. “When you think about standing around waving your phone versus casting spells with a magic wand, I think it’s easy to see which one is the more compelling and immersive fantasy experience.”
Napp is right. While the average iPhone may be able to do just about anything, that doesn’t mean its form can scratch every single itch of our individuality. We’ve all been sold on a communist future for technology, one where we all aspire for the same tech that looks and works the same way, as if there’s one natural unibody logic by which all others must mold themselves. But the Incantor reminds us of another possible future--a future that’s a whole lot weirder--when we don’t have to match right down to the UI, when gestures are designed less for efficiency than individual "because I can" style.
Forget Incantor’s uber geeky LARPing roots for a moment, and disregard that you’ve never shouted “expelliarmus!” in front of another human being. Why couldn’t someone unlock their house with a magic wand if that’s what they were into? Is it really so much stranger than doing the same thing with a cellphone? Is a key any different than a glowing stick?
As of right now, the Incantor has only raised about 6% of its $100,000 goal on Kickstarter. Whether the market is there for a wand we use in public--a definite magic enthusiast’s leap from a book we read or a computer game we play in the privacy of our own homes--is yet to be seen. (Here’s a hint guys: Hire a designer.) But as the cellphone replaces the PC, and as we all start to wear powerful gateways to the internet at all times, don’t be surprised if we see more and more strange and niche fetishes making their way into our daily lives. Because while we may all own the same phones, we won’t stop being individuals.
[Image: David Brimm/Shutterstock]