Apple's iBeacon Technology Brings New Possibilities for Location-Based Gaming

Apple's iBeacons have a lot of potential for inclusion in location-based games, according to The Tap Lab CEO Dave Bisceglia, who spoke to Re/code in an interview. Currently, iOS game developers who want to incorporate location into gameplay are limited to determining location via Apple's internal GPS system, which is not designed to deliver precise information, especially indoors.

iBeacons, on the other hand, are physical Bluetooth low-energy transmitters that are able to provide micro-location information to nearby apps, with an accuracy range of a few feet. For this reason, iBeacons could be incorporated into a whole new category of games that offer multiplayer interactions and other features at specific real-world locations.

Bisceglia's company, for example, is behind a location-based game called Tiny Tycoons. In the game, the idea is to travel around the world and claim real-world locations, kind of like a cross between a city building game and Foursquare.

Rule the REAL WORLD! Tiny Tycoons is the first location-based tycoon game on the App Store. Build your fortune, travel the globe and claim your favorite real-world places before someone else does!

RISE TO THE TOP: In Tiny Tycoons, you can be a Celebrity Chef at a 5-Star Restaurant, the Lead Barista at your favorite Café, or a Millionaire CEO with offices around the world. The choice is up to you!

The company is currently testing an internal version of Tiny Tycoons that takes advantage of Apple's iBeacons, which are used within the game to alert people when they enter a building "owned" by another player. For example, in the video below, Bisceglia enters a Starbucks and gets an iBeacon-based alert from Tiny Tycoons providing the name of the player who owns the location and a prompt to purchase it.


Bluetooth LE, which iBeacon is based on, is also a promising technology for upcoming games. Pkpkt, a game released in mid-December, utilizes Bluetooth LE to let users steal virtual currency from one another in real life, in a futuristic game of tag. Knock, an app released in November, also uses Bluetooth LE in a unique way, allowing the iPhone to unlock a Mac. While iBeacon technology is promising for location-based gaming, Bluetooth LE itself could result in a whole new crop of interactive, multiplayer games and apps.

Nintendo's handheld 3DS gaming device uses a wireless-based system that is somewhat similar to iBeacons to allow two devices to communicate with one another. It also utilizes hotspots around the world to deliver game information, and iBeacons could work similarly, albeit more simply as they would not require a user to connect to Wi-Fi.

First introduced during the 2013 Worldwide Developers Conference, iBeacons allow iPhones and iPads to wirelessly communicate with physical beacons via Bluetooth LE, with the beacons able to deliver specific information to apps when a user is nearby.

iBeacon technology gained some popularity towards the end of 2013 and has been utilized in multiple unique ways. For example, Shopkick and Macy's teamed up to deliver location-based notices when customers passed by products, and Apple has implemented iBeacons in its retail stores to provide product information to browsing customers. A cafe has used iBeacons to deliver free publications, MLB plans to integrate them into stadiums, and most recently, an iBeacon scavenger hunt was held at CES.

Top Rated Comments

Michael Scrip Avatar
134 months ago


I agree. I think they should always use the qualifier "mobile". I'll Candy Crush with the rest of the world, but I don't consider it gaming.

What do you consider it... productivity?

;)
Score: 9 Votes (Like | Disagree)
jclardy Avatar
134 months ago
Definitely not productivity, because casual games eat up plenty of time. I shudder to think about how much time the wife has put into Clumsy Ninja and Singing Monsters, but there is just something qualitatively different about playing a game that requires a video card that cost twice what the rest of the computer did to make it run. :)

And Apple has introduced many people who were never into "gaming" to games through iOS, but hard core gaming fanatics still have to deal with poorly written drivers and such.

So...Pac man, Tetris and pong don't qualify as "gaming" anymore? :cool:
Score: 3 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Nunyabinez Avatar
134 months ago
I get all excited when I see a story about gaming, and then get let down when I see it is iOS gaming.

I know I'm a gaming snob, but there ought to be a different name for playing games on a phone.
Score: 3 Votes (Like | Disagree)
redhawk87 Avatar
134 months ago
I would kill for a real life monopoly iBeacon game! Maybe personalize it for the city you live in. Get 4 or 5 of your local friends to play. Designate a local bank building as the "Collect 200" square where you have to visit it once a day to collect your money... I would totally play that!
Score: 2 Votes (Like | Disagree)
jonAppleSeed Avatar
134 months ago
What do you consider it... productivity?

;)

Virtualized social interaction
Score: 2 Votes (Like | Disagree)
gnasher729 Avatar
134 months ago
Here's another viewpoint on iBeacons.

" Privacy advocates worry over new Apple iPhone tracking feature"

http://finance.yahoo.com/blogs/the-exchange/privacy-advocates-worry-over-new-apple-iphone-tracking-feature-161836223.html
Here's the response, from someone who develops software including iOS software for a living, and has read the documentation (CLBeacon and CLBeaconRegion):

The author of that article is a complete moron, who either hasn't got the slightest idea what iBeacons do, or is deliberately misrepresenting what they do. An iBeacon doesn't do anything at all, except transmitting through low power bluetooth a message that says "this is my company id, this is my major location id, and this is my minor location id". For example, if you want to put iBeacons into every room of your home and your holiday home, you buy a dozen beacons, create a company id for yourself (which is just a long number that you don't tell anyone), program that number into each of your beacons, program the "major location id" 1 for all beacons that go into your home and 2 for all beacons that go into your holiday home, then program a room number as the "minor location id" into each beacon, and then put them where they belong. They just sit there and transmit. They can't receive anything. They can't detect your iPhone. The beacons can do absolutely nothing but transmit these three items of data.

Now what happens if you set up these beacons (or if some Evil Retail Company puts them in their stores)? Nothing. Nothing at all. First you have to write an app that asks the operating system "please tell me if I'm near any beacon with my company id". You can't write an app that looks for _any_ beacons. It has to specify exactly what beacons. Next, you have to put that app on the app store (if you do it privately, you can put it manually on your iPhones, or a company with a company developer license can put it on all their employees' phones). If it goes on the app store, you have to tell Apple what it does, so you can't sneak this in. So you need your app that watches for your beacons, or you need Evil Retail Company's app installed on your phone.

Now what happens? Still nothing. The user of the phone has to start the app manually. And only then, when the user has started Evil Retail Company's app, only then can the app register when it is near any of the Evil Retail Company's beacons.

So what exactly do these people think what evil things iBeacons could be doing? It's absolutely annoying. There are so many _real_ risks to your privacy that you should be aware of, we can really do without idiots who warn about fake and non-existing risks.

Now anyone quoting my post, you can post "Common sense advocates worry about the complete incompetence of privacy advocates".
Score: 1 Votes (Like | Disagree)

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