Airship

No Ghost, Mobile Pie, and Arcade selected as finalists in Digital Catapult's AR competition

David Murphy
Cartoon Network's Toon Cup game

Three immersive studios have been selected as finalists to receive up to £100,000 each of funding to create ground-breaking augmented reality (AR) experiences for global children’s brand Cartoon Network, multi-award winning choreographer and director Wayne McGregor, and augmented reality (AR) trailblazer, Niantic Labs.

The three studios – No Ghost, Mobile Pie, and Arcade – will join Digital Catapult’s FutureScope acceleration programme to continue the development of their experiences which began in August. Niantic has joined forces with Digital Catapult’s deeptech accelerator in order to access the UK’s leading immersive talent and allow immersive studios to use its recently launched Lightship Augmented Reality Developer Kit (ARDK).

The ARDK will provide No Ghost, Mobile Pie and Arcade with the tools they need to create immersive, multiplayer experiences, lowering the barriers to entry for developers to create AR experiences that inspire movement, exploration, and shared experiences in the real world.

"Digital Catapult is committed to making the UK a leader in augmented reality – it's been incredible to see the innovative concepts for AR experiences brought forward by some of the UK's leading immersive studios,” said Digital Catapult CEO, Jeremy Silver. “We look forward to working with creative powerhouses Cartoon Network and Studio Wayne McGregor and the selected studios on using Niantic's Lightship to develop experiences that combine the potential of the metaverse with real-world people-centric activities, blending digital and physical worlds to enrich the way we interact with one another."

Technology experts from Digital Catapult and Niantic, as well as creative leaders from Cartoon Network and Studio Wayne McGregor, will work with the developer teams to build their AR offering over the next few months; the final results will be demonstrated at a showcase in February 2023. 

No Ghost is a real-time story studio that specialises in immersive media. They work with the latest game engine technology to create custom apps that deliver narratives and interactive experiences to a digital audience. Their VR adventure Madrid Noir, which features a meticulously detailed re-imagining of Spain's capital, was part of the Official Selection for the Tribeca Film Festival in 2021 and won the award for Best VR Experience” at the VR Awards. Madrid Noir was also part of Digital Catapult and Arts Council England’s CreativeXR 2019 cohort.

No Ghost will be working with Wayne McGregor to build an AR demonstrator that empowers self-expression through movement. The No Ghost concept, ékhóes, uses AR to take users on a physical exploration of urban space through light, dance and sound. Designed to inspire people to move in new ways and intentionally experience space through all of their senses, this game champions inclusivity and the freedom of self-expression. 

Mobile Pie is an award-winning games studio, focusing younger audiences. It works with clients and broadcasters such as Aardman Animations, P2 Games, CBeebies, CBBC and Cartoon Network, creating titles that have entertained and educated millions of children around the world. Recent projects have included the TIGA award-winning History Detectives for BBC Bitesize, Ben 10: Super Hero Time on Roblox for Cartoon Network, and Horrid Henry's Krazy Karts on the Nintendo Switch with P2 Games and Novel Entertainment.

Mobile Pie will be working with Cartoon Network to build an AR demonstrator to extend the universe of the highly successful mobile game Toon Cup into the real world. Mobile Pie’s concept will transform the 2D single-player experience of Toon Cup into a thrilling multiplayer 3D experience.

In the new multiplayer Toon Cup, players will be able to start football matches against their friends via local multiplayer and a shared AR experience. Players will pick their footballers from Cartoon Network's ever-expanding array of beloved characters, improving their characters' skills in AR mini-games. As players take part in matches and mini-games they can unlock 'power-ups' to upgrade their characters even further. This concept will encourage children to get out of the house and into outdoor spaces to interact not only with their favourite characters, but also with one another.

Arcade is an immersive experience agency that uses AR to create more meaningful connections between people and the world around us. They have produced award-winning, three-dimensional storytelling for some of the world’s leading brands, and arts and culture institutions, including The National Gallery, Sky, Disney, ECB, and UK Parliament. Arcade uses a range of technologies and platforms to deliver their world-class immersive experiences. Arcade previously worked with Digital Catapult and the MUNCH museum in Oslo to create a prototype AR crowd-sourced immersive experience inspired by Norway’s greatest artist, Edvard Munch, and his approach to art, to inspire children to get creative.

Arcade will be working with Niantic to build an AR demonstrator that encourages people to explore their local communities. Arcade’s concept Bazaar is a digital game with real world rewards, centred around the UK’s thousands of high streets. It has been designed to stimulate millennial and Gen Z re-engagement with bricks-and-mortar retail environments.

Bazaar is creating a world where virtual drops are collected and exchanged throughout high streets. Drops initially appear in AR within a set radius of high street locations, each one is a unique game object, which is synchronously visible to all players, and only available to be collected once. As the drops are collected, they can be opened to unlock rewards for users. The rewards take different forms, from general discounts to money off certain items. For example, a drop may contain a 10 per cent discount for orders over £5 at a coffee shop nearby. Collecting the drops encourages users to get out onto their high-streets and engage with local businesses. 

The game also acts as a way of engaging retailers, as they are able to track the number of players that have engaged with their drops and how many have been returned to the shop, along with any discounts redeemed, providing an ongoing sense of the value they are getting through their participation.