You know how annoying it can be, when you’re trying to cross the street and there’s somebody in your way because he’s looking up directions on his phone?
I want you to bundle up that very low-level frustration and multiply it by 65 million people playing something like this:
Yes, you are looking at the iconic first level of Super Mario Bros., programmed in 3D, augmented reality by Abhishek Singh, who is currently in a residency at New York University’s Interactive Telecommunications Program. The demo you see is running on a Microsoft Hololens headset. It looks like a ton of fun for Singh (whose credits include the spectacularly awkward VR game How To Ride a Dragon)–he stomps goombas, leaps across giant pits, and hits question mark blocks in the middle of the park. But we can’t help but wonder how absolutely everyone else in this shared public space feels, shielding their picnics from someone who must look like a madman, hopping around and kicking at invisible monsters.
“As soon as I began working with the Hololens, this was my first project with it. I knew I wanted to use it in a large outdoor setting, even though they explicitly say it is meant to be used indoors. So I find these possibilities to be the most fun,” says Singh, who adds that Pokémon Go didn’t debut without its share of frustrations. “It’ll take some experimentation, some bumps and bruises, designing completely new interactions and use cases, but I could definitely see it happening.” And by “see it happening,” Singh seems to mean, a future in which all of us are running around the world in our own virtual Super Mario Bros., Pokémon Go, or [editor’s preference inserted by strong-arming] Ms. Pac-Man. Though I can’t help but expect that there’s no way for us to interoperate in this new video-game reality unless all of our Hololenses talk to one another, and it’s shared. Otherwise, your power pellet mixed with my goomba ends up with somebody losing a very real eye.
As for the distribution of Super Mario Bros., Hololens edition, don’t expect it to be on sale anytime soon. Singh doesn’t have a license from Nintendo to actually use its IP. “I might release the code on GitHub so others can build it themselves, but will need to check the ramifications first,” he says.