Wednesday, November 27, 2013

iBeacons, Projekt Stroma, and the missing Link

Much has been said lately about Bluetooth low-energy beacons (i.e., iBeacons). Usually this talk hovers around mobile non-GPS location sensitive advertisements similarly to what could be observed in the movie Minority Report (2002) [1].For us at tenqyu, however, these beacons are literally the missing link towards a fully immersive and integrated retail customer experience model in the context of gamified augmented reality.


Let me explain: 

One game mechanic that we found clumsy to implement was location-sensitive passive player events. I.e., Once the player enters a specific region on the play grid an event is triggered. This game mechanic can be observed in games like the Grand Theft Auto or Pokemon Series, and has been shown that this has a large impact on the player’s immersion and identification with the game as there is a smooth transition from the currently storyline to the new event. [2]

In the real-world where the game-engine is not controlling all the finite environmental states; however, the implementation of this would be quite clumsy. One would have to constantly monitor the location of the player via GPS against a list of game areas in a given setting. While it is not impossible to implement this, at the time we decided against it to ensure the player’s privacy, a lower impact on the player’s mobile phone battery, and less stress on the servers.

Now, Bluetooth LE beacons have the potential to solve this problem very elegantly as they can answer the question “Where am I?” not in terms of a location on a map, like GPS does, but in terms of where the device is relative to another the Bluetooth beacon and independent if the app is active or not[3]. Right out of the box(!)


By design, Projekt Stroma (our content management platform) was dependent on the active participation of the player.  On the scan of a tenqyu-branded QR Code the game event is triggered and the related content is presented to the player. 




This mechanic is similar to pressing a button in a video game or entering a “yellow ring” in Grand Theft Auto.




 
One of the more engaging experiences in game-design is the element of surprise. [4] . This element of surprise can now be triggered via on-location Bluetooth LE beacons. At its core, a Bluetooth LE beacons is simply a “HERE I AM!” message to other devices within range. Bluetooth LE beacons broadcasts have no data payload; but they identify themselves via a UUID (unique identifier) and 2 numbers, dubbed “major” and “minor”. This is a similar concept as Wi-Fi network which would usually distribute their network id to the listening device.


To give an example of what we will be using Bluetooth LE beacons for, think of the following quest:

We are placing several Beacons within the vicinity of a given shopping mall. Each beacon is uniquely configured and identifiable based on a uuid, a major, and a minor number representing a given monster. 




UUID (unique identifier) is a property which is unique but the same for all on-location tenqyu quests. In this case, the same UUID would be given to all beacons.
[Pro tip] You generate a UUID by loading up the terminal on a Mac and entering uuidgen. It provides a UUID such as “23542266-18D1-4FE4-B4A1-23F8195B9D39″.

major is the property that you use to specify a related set of beacons. This is a numeric value would usually be assigned to a specific quest. Based on the spec, the major can take up to 65535 different values. 
minor in this case would be used to specify a particular beacon which would then identify a specific subset of a quest.

Now Qyu is programmed to monitor for this uuid. When Qyu detects it, it looks at the major and minor values and can determine which of quest events needs to be triggered.
So when the app detects that you have entered the region (AKA, picked up a transmitter) containing the quest UUID of “
23542266-18D1-4FE4-B4A1-23F8195B9D39″ and a major of 1 and minor of 6, it knows now a quest cue from a given Monster will be triggered. 


This is significantly augmenting and enhancing the player’s experiences with navigation, information and environmental interaction. Please expect more cool features around this soon.

Sources:

[1] http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0181689/
[2] http://www.gamasutra.com/view/feature/131767/secrets_of_the_sages_level_design.php?print=1
[3] https://developer.apple.com/library/ios/documentation/userexperience/conceptual/LocationAwarenessPG/LocationAwarenessPG.pdf
[4] http://www.wizards.com/magic/magazine/article.aspx?x=mtg/daily/mm/168

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