Google subsidiary Owlchemy Labs has cooked up an experimental ARCore mobile app that enables smartphone users to follow along with their VR friends as they play games in a head-mounted display.
Called Mobile Spectator, the app uses ARCore to track the smartphone's position in physical space.
After connecting to the same Wi-Fi network as the PC running the VR headset and synchronizing the positions of the smartphone and VR headset, a camera representing the app is placed in the VR scene. The PC renders and encodes the viewpoint of the camera and sends it to the smartphone app, where it is decoded and displayed for a live third-person video feed of the VR action.
For the VR viewers, their smartphone companions are represented in the experience via a floating smartphone, while mobile viewers see an avatar of the player in the virtual environment. A blog post shows the app in action with Vacation Simulator, but Job Simulator and Rick and Morty: Virtual Rick-ality for Adult Swim are among Owlchemy's other titles.
The app offers additional interaction beyond voyeurism. Mobile spectators of Vacation Simulator can press a button to toss beach balls at the VR player. There's also a camera capture button, which instructs the PC to grab a high-resolution capture of a frame from the VR scene and send it to the smartphone.
The Owlchemy Labs app highlights some potential pitfalls in creating a spectator mode app, including heavy performance demands on both the PC and smartphone to render the experience, as well as latency between the VR environment and the spectator view.
Meanwhile, a similar smartphone spectator feature for the Oculus Go has shown up in the latest update for the app, but users still don't have access to the feature. Alas, even Owlchemy's app is itself an experiment.
"At this time, Mobile Spectator is an internal R&D project, and is not publicly available. We haven't announced any plans to publish the app, or if we will include it in any of our games," said a company spokesperson in a statement to Next Reality.
Nevertheless, even if the app never graduates beyond experiment, it does serve as a proof-of-concept for proponents of the philosophy that augmented reality and virtual reality are just different points on the same spectrum of computer immersion.