‘Spectacle’ Brings AR To Gear VR With Instagram-Style Real-World Filters

by Joe Durbin • March 3rd, 2016

Cubicle Ninjas, a Chicago-based design firm, is planning to release an application for the Samsung Gear VR that overlays Instagram-like filters over your real world surroundings in real-time.

The app, known as Spectacle, is – according to Cubicle Ninjas CEO Josh Farkas – capable of overlaying 50 different filters onto a user’s actual world by tapping into the Gear VR’s passthrough camera.

Spec4

The app boasts several categories of filters ranging from the artistic to the obscure, and Farkas is not above choosing a few favorites:

“There are a ton in the artistic area that are stunning,” Farkas said. “There is a Line Art filter that’s really neat. We have a Manga Filter that uses a speed effect and makes everything sort of black and white. The Living in 8-Bit filter lets you see the world like an old school video game. We also do color shifting – how you view your surroundings with different color filters put over the top. It’s like mood lighting for reality. The Psychedelic ones are completely mind blowing and were honestly hard to spend more than a minute inside at first. We also have a night vision filter that actually helps you see in dark environments.”

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In addition to taking advantage of the Gear’s pass through camera – a feature we have not seen embraced by any other Gear VR applications – Cubicle Ninjas also wants to push the boundaries for this app from an interface standpoint. Farkas explained that the app does not use a gamepad, or the Gear’s touchpad, to be controlled. It actually uses your bare hands alone.

“Basically you control the app with your hands. You move your hands in front of your face,” he said. “It’s pretty binary but it works … You can swipe through items, swipe through filters, and there is some other cool stuff we’ll be using it for later … To remove filters you just wipe in front of your face.”

Binary or not, enabling natural hand motions as an interface for a mixed reality application, without the aid of tracked-hand controllers, is a significant accomplishment. The Leap Motion VR peripheral provides similar capabilities, but Farkas was quick to point out the hand tracking in Spectacle is nowhere near as robust as what that accessory provides. Spec2

The creation of the app, for Farkas, was something of a happy accident and its development was driven by the studio’s desire to create a broad-appeal VR application.

“We sort of stumbled into AR actually. We had been testing several different ideas and just sort of stumbled across how fun AR was,” he said. “A lot of people in our lives don’t really get VR/AR. They always ask about practical value. So, our hope was to create something that has a mass market appeal,” Farkas said.

Farkas cites Samsung’s ongoing S7 pre-order Gear VR giveaway as something that is driving the necessity for the creation of more entry-level applications.

“The era of mass market VR is already here … I’ve never seen a demand for anything like I’ve seen for VR these past few years,” Farkas said.

In addition to Spectacle, Cubicle Ninjas is also working to release Guided Meditation VR – a VR application that teaches and encourages deeper and more intense forms of meditation. That experience is being created for the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive as well as the Gear VR.

The studio hopes to see both applications released in the next month, and is also working on a “top-secret” third project that Farkas said “will be a multiplayer game.”

The price for these experiences has not been set yet, but Farkas did say Spectacle will most likely cost a flat rate “around $3” that includes all 50 filters right off the bat. Users will be able to capture and share photos of their AR filtered experiences as well.

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