Google is going all in with Childish Gambino as its musical champion for augmented reality, as the duo has now dropped its second AR collaboration of the year.
After Google launched his Playmoji for Pixel's Playground app earlier this year, Gambino, the musical alter ego of entertainment multi-threat Donald Glover, has now released a multiplayer augmented reality app called Pharos AR for Android and iOS.
The app opens a portal to a virtual world that is equal parts psychedelic and cosmic. Users are challenged to find mysterious glyphs throughout the digital environment, with the walls between the virtual and real worlds blurring throughout the experience. Upon the discovery of each glyph, a 3D character is transported into the environment. Once all the glyphs are found, a ghostly avatar of Gambino appears, sending the user into orbit for a trip through the cosmos.
Of course, since Gambino is a musical alter ego, spatial audio plays a big role in the experience. Throughout the virtual scavenger hunt, a primal looped beat builds to a crescendo. Once the experience blasts off into space, the soundtrack kicks into another gear. When the app recommends headphones, it's not messing around.
As the experience concludes, the virtual walls fade away, with a few AR remnants remaining anchored in the real world as the soundtrack fades out.
"Augmented reality lets you bring digital content into the real world — transforming the way you shop, learn, create and experience what's around you," said Neil Parris, head of entertainment partnerships for AR/Lens at Google, in a blog post.
"For artists and creators, AR can be used as an outlet for artistic expression and a way for fans to explore and interact with their content in a new way."
Built using Unity by the MediaMonks studio, the app uses ARCore to set the augmented reality stage and Cloud Anchors to extend the multiplayer experience. Because Cloud Anchors is a cross-platform multiplayer framework, Pharos will enable Android and iPhone/iPad users to enjoy the AR experience together once the app hits Apple's App Store.
"Wolf + Rothstein, Childish Gambino's management team, wanted to create a mobile AR app because they see the opportunity that other cutting-edge brands using the tech see — mobile AR gives them the opportunity to create compelling and targeted experiences that catch their audience's attention and build positive brand association," wrote Sarah Stumbo and Brittany Edmond on Unity's blog post regarding the app.
Already an acclaimed actor, writer, and producer for movies and TV, under his alter ego as a musical artist, Glover is shaping up to be the most accomplished artist in immersive media as well. Gambino has also previously collaborated in AR with Apple, which featured a lip-synced version of his Grammy-winning track "Redbone" with Animoji for a TV ad.
Because Gambino clearly isn't a rookie when it comes to AR and VR, he stands as the ideal influencer for Google to push its AR platforms. While the Childish Gambino Playmoji serves as a carrot for those considering the Pixel, Pharos AR acts as a sherpa for other artists to expand the musical experience beyond the album and the music video with ARCore and Cloud Anchors.
While ARCore isn't lacking in adoption (at least relative to Apple's ARKit), there have not been many real-world examples of Cloud Anchors in the wild other than Google's own Just a Line app. Maybe a little star power will push developers to take a shot at creating their own multiplayer experiences using Cloud Anchors.