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How VarDragons Are Looking To Turn Real Airplanes Into Virtual Pet Dragons

VarDragons’ Thomas R.Byrd discusses the technology and ideas behind their current augmented reality project.

The low hum from the engines of passing aircraft has all but become ubiquitous white noise to most. Aircraft used to inspire imagination and adventure, but recently has become as commonplace as the passing clouds. Until now.

From Miami, Florida our small team of engineers and entrepreneurs has teamed up with game developers to bring the spirit of winged-adventure and wonder back to the skies. At VarDragons, we are rapidly developing a mobile VR and AR gaming experience. This experience allows players to point their phones towards once-boring passing aircraft, and unveil the hidden dragon-spirits of the planes.

Empowered by a live aircraft data stream from various commercial and official sources, VarDragons game engine determines the make, model, color, origin, flight plan and most importantly live position of aircraft. Over the past several months, our team has worked with various commercial sources and the FAA to channel the live aircraft data feed. Don’t worry, bad guys will not be able to see US military ‘dragons’ in the app.

We have taken this exciting new data streaming capability and ‘gamified’ it. Through your camera we replace the aircraft you see with the 3D dragon-version of that exact plane in augmented reality (AR). Each dragon will embody all characteristics of their corresponding aircraft! For instance, a small plane will be a small dragon. A large Nordic aircraft will be a large Nordic dragon, and so on.

There are only so many objects in reality that constantly stream their location. We have quickly taken full advantage of a unique-data set and can create a mixed reality experience affordable for everyone with a mobile device. The streaming location data allowed VarDragons to avoid relying on experimental visual recognition technology to create the mixed reality experience. “At one point people used to use their imagination and picture exotic destinations a plane could be going. We aim to get people wondering, once again what’s flying over their heads,” say Thomas, one of three creators and visionaries of VarDragons.

After examining the mobile gaming market, we noticed two things: a) There are not many mobile-based AR games that offer rich gameplay experience away from the AR features, and b) The world needs VR pet dragon, bad.

Our vision is to create an intermediate step between geo-based AR (Pokémon GO), and experimental, and ultimately expensive, devices such as the Halo Lens and the Magic Leap device. We are transcending the AR and VR market by developing a unique opportunity in leveraging a real object, the modern aircraft in this case. A simple comparison of the gamer’s location, the stream of the aircraft location and a 3D dragon overlay allows us to create a dynamic mixed reality experience through the lens of an affordable and common device: the mobile phone.

Creating an affordable mixed reality experience only represents the very beginning of our vision. We aim to back this unique feature with a rich and interactive gaming experience available in smart-phone accessible VR headsets such as the Oculus Gear VR.

If a player loves the dragon they discovered through AR they can catch it. Once it’s part of the players ‘hoard’, they can choose to fully interact with their new pet dragons allowing it to survive and thrive. Because if a player chooses, they can put their dragon to the ultimate test: global battle with other dragons around the world! From small Cessna-type aircraft, to private helicopters, to even the largest commercial jets: there will be a dragon for it all.

So what’s next and when can I catch dragons? The VarDragons team will be surging the development effort from late summer and into the fall of this year, followed by a release in the spring of 2018.

This timeline however may be sped up considerably if we complete a successful KickStarter campaign over the summer. Our goal during this spring is to spread the word. Following a very successful initial exhibitor campaign at GDC, SXSW, and of course PAX East, we are excited to be back behind our monitors campaigning and developing. We are currently a small operation and critically need the community to jump onboard and help us complete this awesome vision.

To reward what has been amazing support thus far, we have kicked off an incentive campaign: We hope to snag 5001 (yes, 5000 + 1) newsletter subscribers in order to kick off our KickStarter campaign. We will not launch this campaign unless we reach this critical goal: so subscribe! The person who recruits the most subscribers that actually back our KickStarter will receive $501 of in-game currency, our favorite little pudgy dragon statue, and other unique prizes as well. All other subscribers will be handsomely rewarded as well through a series of unique gifts to include initial beta releases to test prior to public release of the game. Would-be dragon owners can subscribe and learn more about our unique prize levels at www.VarDragons.com.

Over the summer and into the fall, VarDragon’s development focus will be on optimizing the VR experience for the Samsung Gear VR in Spring 2018, followed by an iPhone version in Summer 2018. The free to play game will be released for iPhone and Android in spring of 2018.

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