It was just about this time last year that Apple introduced the 3.1 firmware update to the iPhone that allowed developers to access the built-in camera for games and apps. What followed was an avalanche of “Augmented Reality” games, or in other words games that utilized real-time images from the iPhone camera and added digital graphical effects over those images to create gameplay out of the environments in front of you. Unfortunately, nothing too spectacular ever emerged from this technology, and most games consisted of shallow gameplay with Space Invaders-type graphics slapped over the camera's view. There have been some interesting uses of Augmented Reality on the iPhone just to be clear, but as far as gaming was concerned it never amounted to more than just a gimmick.

Now it seems that developer Int13 is trying something a bit different to bring a more authentic Augmented Reality experience to the iPhone (and camera-enabled iPod touches) with their upcoming game ARDefender. The way ARDefender works is that you'll print out an image from a PDF file available on their website, and this special image will be read by the camera and create a tower where the image is placed. The goal of the game is to defend that tower from waves of enemies by moving your device around the fixed position of the tower to take aim and blast away at them. It may sound a little simplistic gameplay-wise, but what I really like is how convincingly the tower and enemies seem to actually be on the table, which can be seen in the video below.

We previewed a technology very similar to that used in ARDefender way back in March of last year at GDC, but at that time use of the iPhone camera APIs was off limits to developers. The technology has also been used in the Playstation 3 game Eye of Judgment, and even in this incredible Augmented Reality tattoo. Ideas like this are obviously possible on the iPhone as well, and it seems like ARDefender is a step in the right direction. All I've ever really wanted from an Augmented Reality game is for it to make me actually feel like something is being created in the real life space around me, and by the looks of things ARDefender does just that.

It shouldn't be too long before we can get our hands on the game either, as ARDefender has already been submitted to Apple. Interestingly, the game has been available for over a month on the Samsung Wave, and impressions from those gamers have been positive. They've even come up with some clever ideas on how to use the technology, like printing out a huge version of the PDF image to create a gigantic tower and playing the game from an elevated area like a balcony, or pulling up the PDF on their computer at work and pointing their phone at it to play the game directly on the screen. We'll be sure to take a closer look at ARDefender when it gets released in the near future.

  • Dave


  • Anonymous

    Nice. Most augmented reality games still look a little rough around the edges but this one actually seems pretty solid. If anything it's a step in the right direction, once the games get a little deeper I'll probably be feeling the urge to upgrade from my Touch 2G.

  • Sticktron

    This actually looks really cool. The fact that it's 3D and appears to use the plane of the table as the xz plane sell the effect much better than 2d sprites floating around.

  • Adams Immersive


    I’d like to see an optional tower symbol that you could draw by hand: it would necessarily be trickier to get right, but at the same time easier to make on the spot!

    And/or, maybe detection based on taking a starter shot of some little flat object you already have—something with orientation info, like a key maybe?

    I’m sure printing a “real” tower will always be the most reliable though.

    • Adams Immersive

      (By the way, I’d say this fits more properly under Castle Defense, not Tower Defense. AR tower defense sounds cool too!)

      • Jared Nelson

        Really funny you say that, as I had tagged it as castle defense at first, but then had second thoughts because it's a "tower" that you "defend", but yeah I agree it's not quite a tower defense game. Lol, oh well 🙂

        And about the cards, I totally don't see why they can't come up with new downloadable cards that give you different towers that have different weapons and effects. We'll have to see if something like that ends up happening once it comes out.

    • mmm

      I think calibration is much easier with a standard printed object. If you draw a shape and then calibrate with it, you have to make sure you are positioning the iphone directly overhead with no tilt, at a specific distance, etc. Plus the game hides the paper anyway, so it ultimately has no effect on actual gameplay. The shape also has to be of certain properties, so the app is able to judge perspective and distance from all viewpoints. I think the printed pattern was designed to do this very well.

      It's a pretty ingenious idea, using the printed shape so the app can judge perspective. Without something like this, there's no easy way for the app to actually perceive the environment.

      It would be really interesting to have a multiplayer mode which involves 2 printouts, and 2 iPhones. Instead of just defending your tower, you would deploy units to attack the other tower, etc.

  • Corey Backlund

    Will this work with the ipod touch 4, since the camera is of much lower quality?

    • Adams Immersive

      The video camera is great in the new iPod, so realtime image processing should be just fine. It lacks the high-end still cam ability of the iPhone 4, but this kind of app isn’t using 5MP images anyway. (In fact, I wonder if it’s even using full HD, or simply the 640x960 res of the on-screen view.)

  • pb+j

    Corey: It's the video quality that matters here, and that's HD.


    looks awesome!

  • Anonymous


  • GodSon

    I look forward to picking this up!

  • mmm

    This game is already available in the Samsung app store (linked from developer's web site), and the game has some good reviews-

    This looks really cool! I would love to see a multiplayer involving two towers and two iphones. I guess you would be deploying units to attack the other tower, as well as defending your own tower.

  • NightHawk64345

    Looks cool! I would be willing to pay $5 if it had multiplayer co-op and verses.

    • Stephc

      Hi folks, I'm the CEO of the company behind this game.

      Thank you all for the good feedback, don't hesitate to ask for new features or improvements, in fact we're already working on upgrades for this game.

      A good idea would be to prioritize the features so we could decide which one to release first.

      • Sekazi

        I think adding In App Purchases for different themes would be awesome. I think a toy soldiers theme would be great. All those little green and brown army men, tanks, helis, artillery coming after your base camp would be cool.

        I love AR apps and this is the best I have seen so it will be a day 1 pickup.

        Does the enemies recognize obstacles around the tower if you say have some batteries or something on one side they have to go around?

  • Peter Mostoff

    Impressive. This looks like a lot of fun.

  • Mofo

    What kind of version of Around the World is that? Does the dev have the rights to the song?

  • Citsade

    I wish INT13 would re-release their PPC game Darklaga on the Iphone. =(

  • Greg Feingold

    I can't imagine how hard it is to program a good AR game... It looks pretty difficult. My heart (read:money) goes out to any devs who try. Game looks like a lot of fun but spelling 'enemies' wrong is a little embarrassing.

  • Dan

    Find it annoying that any developer could have thought it would be a good idea to test their game out on the Samsung market place first! Surely any game is worth releasing on the iPhone AppStore, especially when the concept is so revolutionary that even just charging 50p is enough to bring you a substantial revenue.

    • Surge

      Seriously? Your annoyed because someone released their application on another platform before the iDevice app store? You do realize that the world does not revolve around apples products, right?

    • Adams Immersive

      Sometimes testing in a small market first is very helpful—like the way some companies release just in Canada’s app store first.

  • Corey Watford

    Did anyone notice the music is Daft punk's around the world in a remix?

  • Severe

    Anybody tried the augmented reality game "SpecTrek"? A very cool game but you have to go outside and play.

  • VirgoBlu

    This game is available now.

  • Funambulist

    Thanks for the heads up VirgoBlu. Downloaded.

  • Oli

    Check out the upcoming game Traveller-AR, it really odes use augmented reality to add depth to the game : )