Move over, Star Wars. You're not the only Disney property that can play in the Lenovo Mirage AR headset anymore.
On Thursday, superhero powerhouse Marvel unveiled Dimension of Heroes, a new mobile app for iOS and Android that, when holstered in a Lenovo Mirage AR headset and paired with a set of tracking beacons and handheld controllers, unlocks three augmented reality gaming modes chock full of heroes, villains, and generic henchmen.
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Throughout the game modes, players can stand-in as Doctor Strange, Captain America, Thor, Black Panther, Star-Lord, and Captain Marvel. The controllers project the particular powers of each character into the field of view of the AR headset, enabling players to punch, blast, or hurl projectiles at their enemies, who are anchored in space by the tracking beacons.
In story mode in Dimension of Heroes, players progress through a story populated with familiar villains like Loki, Ronan the Accuser, Ultron Prime, and the Winter Soldier, with Dormammu serving as the big bad of the game; players can also summon allies like the Hulk for assistance throughout the story. For those who just want to fight hordes of bad guys, there's a solo mode. Finally, there's also a co-op mode in which friends with Lenovo Mirage AR headsets can connect to the same Wi-Fi and play together.
Marvel's AR game represents a reboot of sorts for the Lenovo Mirage AR headset. Previously, the headset was only available as part of the Star Wars Jedi Challenges playset. However, now the headset, along with tracking beacons and a pair of universal controllers in place of the replica lightsaber, is available under its own name for $249 through Amazon.
So, what about those who bought into the headset via the Star Wars game? There's good news and bad news. The good news is, according to Lenovo's FAQs, the Mirage headset also works with Dimension of Heroes. The bad news is that you'll still need the new universal controllers, but those can be purchased separately for $99 through Lenovo starting Sept. 6.
Marvel fans that jump aboard the Lenovo AR train with the new Mirage AR set will also be able to play Star Wars Jedi Challenges, as one of the controllers can serve as a lightsaber in that game.
In either case, interested players will need a compatible smartphone. Any iPhone model newer than iPhone 6 will fit in the headset, and Lenovo lists the Samsung Galaxy S9, S8, S7 Edge, and S7, Google Pixel and Pixel XL, Moto Z2 Force, Moto Z, LG G6, Huawei Mate 10, Mate 10 Pro, and Nova 2S, Xiaomi MIX2, and Sony Xperia XZ1 as validated to be compatible from the Android side. In general, smartphones running at least Android 7 or iOS that fit within the cradle and meet certain hardware requirements should work.
While the headset and peripherals -- powered in part by technology from Ximmerse -- are required to play the AR games, there is a little bit of content available for those who install the free app. There's also photo booth feature that overlays animated stickers of Doctor Strange within the user's field of view. However, that part is a very basic AR experience without any environmental understanding via ARKit or ARCore. Another 12 characters can be unlocked by users who progress through the game's story mode. Also, there's a link to the game's website available (which actually isn't live yet) where you'll be able to buy the required hardware.
This isn't Marvel's first attempt at AR gaming. Last year, the Disney subsidiary mimicked the Star Wars: Jedi Challenges experience with its own Iron Man AR helmet and game through Hasbro. This year, Marvel integrated AR into an Iron Man robot.
But it's not like Marvel fans are lacking AR experiences with their favorite heroes. Between AR content for mobile platforms like Google's Playground, Facebook's Spark AR, and Snapchat, standalone mobile apps, and brand tie-ins, Marvel is stretching its entertainment empire into all corners of AR.
Marvel's latest AR offering comes at an interesting time in the evolution of AR hardware, where several consumer-grade options are starting to arrive on the market. A limited-use headset like the Lenovo Mirage AR, which has now doubled its compatible AR apps to a grand total of two, might be enough to attract Star Wars and Marvel fans, but it's not enough to gather the critical mass that would qualify as a mainstream success.
The Mirage AR headset and its games may ultimately be a footnote in AR hardware history, but, for those looking for Marvel AR gaming experience now, Lenovo has one of the few tickets in town.