As part of its massive dump of AI news yesterday at I/O 2023, Google revealed that it would be expanding access to the 3D data it creates and relies on to make Google Maps more immersive. Our first good example of the potential behind that move is a new Space Invaders game that takes advantage of augmented reality to let battles play out in and around real life landmarks.
Although augmented reality has struggled to become part of our daily lives, there’s a few instances where the technology has really landed with consumers: the most obvious being Niantic’s Pokémon Go, which has Pokémon battles that appear to play out in real life locales. Google and Taito—the company that introduced the world to Space Invaders way back in 1978—are looking to deliver a similar experience with their new Space Invaders World Defense game, but with AR technology that improves on the PoGo experience, which offers limited support for pocket monsters being able to dart behind real world objects.
By leveraging Google’s Streetscape Geometry API, which provides developers with access to “the geometry of terrain, buildings, or other structures in a scene” captured by a mobile device’s camera, the invaders from space will appear to fly behind terrain, buildings, or other structures. This will be more than aesthetic, as they’ll be temporarily safe from your attacks behind cover. They’ll also come flying out of warp holes that suddenly appear on the sides of buildings. Even the local weather at the time will be taken into effect, although how that will affect gameplay remains to be seen.
Whether or not the game will also allow the aliens to inflict simulated damage on the real world isn’t known yet, but it’s entirely possible using the Google Maps data now available to developers, as the appearance of buildings and other structures can be modified in real time. The bigger question, however, is whether or not players will be able to generate force fields, and then shoot through their own force fields in order to snipe at aliens passing overhead while remaining protected below. We’ll find out this summer when the game is officially released.