×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

‘Virtual Virtual Reality’ Makers Release Augmented Reality Game ‘Tendar’

Tender Claws, the Los Angeles-based studio behind the popular VR game “Virtual Virtual Reality,” released a new augmented reality (AR) mobile game for Android phones Thursday. “Tendar,” as the game is being called, puts players in charge of an AR guppy that is part Tamagochi, part sentient AI.

The object of the game is to nurture the guppy and grow its intelligence by feeding it with human emotions and real-world objects. If that sounds a bit weird, it’s probably no accident: After all, Tender Claws’ “Virtual Virtual Reality” put players into a world ruled by mean-spirited robot overlords that used humans as laborers for their amusement — complete with a glitchy underworld of high-tech resistance.

For “Tendar,” the studio decided to figure out how to tell stories in augmented reality, while also pushing the technical boundaries of the medium. Instead of just placing a traditional story on top of real-world surfaces, “Tendar” uses object recognition to actually make sense of the world and incorporate it into the game play. The game also uses facial recognition to sense emotions, detecting smiles, frowns and more. “The story is about you and what’s around you,” said Tender Claws co-founder Danny Cannizzaro.

Work on “Tendar” began as part of a Sundance project, which tried to pair up players to help the fish. “It started out more as a social AR experience,” said Tender Claws co-founder Samantha Gorman. Since then, it evolved to become more of a casual mobile experience, with the idea that players can check in on their fish for a few minutes, and then go about their day.

“Tendar” makes use of Google’s ArCore augmented reality platform for Android devices, as well as on-device object recognition and sentiment detection powered by Tensorflow machine learning — cutting-edge tech for a mobile game, and also a privacy-friendly approach that guarantees that your facial expressions aren’t uploaded to the cloud.

However, all of this technology is just the means to an end, said Cannizzaro. “We wanted to make sure that it wasn’t just a tech demo.” That’s why the game’s guppy brings its own quirks to the table. For instance, it’s very good at recognizing dogs, but simply calls all other animals possums. “We can recognize a lot of objects, but there are a bunch of things that the guppy doesn’t care about,” he said.

And “Tendar” wouldn’t be a Tender Claws game if it didn’t have an odd twist. “As the guppy evolves, he becomes more and more verbal,” Cannizzaro explained. Snd as the virtual pet becomes smarter, it also develops its own personality — and ultimately becomes aware of the constraints of its world. “The guppy has a bit of an existential crisis,” Gorman said.

“Tendar” is Tender Claws’ first AR title, and it’s one of a number of titles looking to bring narrative experiences to the medium. Earlier this week, immersive media startup Within released its own first AR app, dubbed “Wonderscope.” Previewing that app in an interview with Variety, Within CEO Chris Milk said that creating for AR was very different from VR. “You have to build a story that can work in someone’s kitchen, in someone’s backyard, next to someone’s pool,” he said.

Cannizzaro echoed these remarks, saying that creators had a lot less control in AR than in VR. “It’s even harder to do narrative things in AR,” he said. “This is a very different animal.”

More Digital

  • snapchat-logo

    Snapchat Takes Down Porn Lenses, May Start Cat-and-Mouse Game

    Snapchat quickly removed a handful of x-rated augmented reality lenses Tuesday, dealing a blow to efforts by adult entertainment company Naughty America to promote its subscriptions to the service’s users. However, the porn studio may not be quite done with Snapchat just yet, as it is still distributing the source files that allow Snapchat users [...]

  • YouTube logo

    Why YouTube Is Changing the Way It Reports Subscriber Counts

    Within the next three months, YouTube will change the way it publicly displays channel subscriber counts: It will provide only rounded figures instead of actual follower numbers. For example, under the change, T-Series — the Indian music-video channel that recently surpassed PewDiePie to become the most-subscribed independent channel on the platform — would be listed [...]

  • Phillip Eubanks and Marc Hemeon Join

    Phillip Eubanks and Marc Hemeon Join Troy Carter’s Q&A

    Q&A, the music and tech company founded by former Lady Gaga manager and Spotify exec Troy Carter, today announced the appointments of Phillip Eubanks as Chief Operating Officer (pictured above, right) and Marc Hemeon as Head of Design (left). The pair join Carter, J. Erving (Human Re Sources, Atom Factory), Suzy Ryoo (Atom Factory, OMD) [...]

  • Simran Sethi Quits Netflix India Role

    Simran Sethi Quits Netflix India Role

    Simran Sethi, the Los Angeles-based director of Netflix international originals, responsible for India content, has resigned and will quit after a transition period. Netflix did not comment. Sources familiar with the matter told Variety that Netflix prefers an executive based in India to oversee local original content that has now grown to 11 series and [...]

  • The Secret Life of Pets 2

    ‘The Secret Life of Pets 2’ Tops Studios’ TV Ad Spending

    In this week’s edition of the Variety Movie Commercial Tracker, powered by TV ad measurement and attribution company iSpot.tv, Universal Pictures claims the top spot in spending with “The Secret Life of Pets 2.” Ads placed for the animated film had an estimated media value of $11.52 million through Sunday for 869 national ad airings [...]

  • Cory-Haik-Vice

    Vice Media Hires Cory Haik, Former Mic Publisher, as Chief Digital Officer (EXCLUSIVE)

    Vice Media has recruited Cory Haik, former publisher of digital news start-up Mic, as chief digital officer to lead the youth-culture company’s global internet businesses. Haik will be based at Vice’s Brooklyn headquarters and report to CEO Nancy Dubuc. She most recently worked at Mic, which last fall laid off virtually its entire staff before [...]

  • Snapchat logos

    Porn Studio Starts Building X-Rated Snapchat Lenses, Encourages Users to Do the Same

    Update: Snapchat removed the lenses in question following the publication of this story. Read our follow-up for all the details. Adult entertainment company Naughty America wants to use augmented reality to get the word out about its paid services. The company has begun to make Snapchat lenses featuring some of its models, and is teaching [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content