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Wearable Tech

I tried Angry Birds in Magic Leap's augmented reality

The Angry Birds and Bad Piggies are seriously coming to Magic Leap, and it's exactly what you'd expect.

It took a uber-popular game starring famous, cutesy kid-friendly characters for the world to take augmented reality seriously, but Pokemon Go is now the go-to example of a game that blends real and virtual worlds. 

Now, the elusive Magic Leap has a similar brand in its stable: Angry Birds. The addictive bird-flinging, tower-bashing, pig crushing puzzler phenomenon that's been downloaded some four billion times is now a three-dimensional game. You'll be able to place one of the Bad Piggies' castles on a real-world table and fire birds from any angle, just by walking around your real-life room. 

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A look through the lens of Magic Leap. Now imagine this less blurry, somewhat less ghostly, and in stereo 3D. (It's tough to show what it really looks like with a 2D photo.)

Sean Hollister/CNET

I gave the game a try this week. The good news? It's exactly what you'd expect: Cute, irreverent cartoon characters taunt you (particularly when you inspect them up close -- they'll look right at you) as you repeatedly fail, and finally nail, the perfect trajectory for your slingshot to topple whichever castle the Pigs have cooked up this time. It feels like Angry Birds!

Also: It's kinda cool that you can walk around the room, bend down right next to the castles and find the exact angle to exploit their weaknesses, typically by smacking a hidden block of TNT that causes a chain reaction to bring the whole castle down. 

The bad news is that it's also exactly what you'd expect from a proof of concept for a $2,295 headset with little chance of becoming a consumer product anytime soon. Currently, the game only features 20 rather simple levels, compared to the hundreds of devious puzzles available in the original games. None of them put up much of a challenge for me on my very first try, beyond the temptation to shoot from further distances and try for higher scores.

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The reality of what this game looks like is somewhere between this mocked-up image and my actual photos. This mockup does a good job of showing how the blocks and slingshot are slightly transparent, but cheats when it comes to how much you can see through the Magic Leap One's lenses.

Resolution Games

That said, developer Resolution Games, which worked with Angry Birds owner Rovio on the project, hasn't quite nailed down what the final game will include when it launches on Magic Leap this fall. 

For instance, I found it a little awkward to play the game in a San Francisco hotel room while its developers watched me walk around a seemingly empty room, since they couldn't see what I was doing inside the headset. But Resolution suggests the final version could maybe stream a video feed to a nearby TV, so friends could be more involved in the game while they wait for their turn.

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Like previous Angry Birds games, you're still trying for that coveted three-star score.

Sean Hollister/CNET

More good news: The developers admit there's really no reason you'd necessarily need a $2,300 headset to play. They actually built the game using VR headsets -- because they only received Magic Leap developer kits this summer -- and they think it wouldn't be too hard to build something similar for AR-capable iOS and Android phones.

Rovio and Resolution executives don't try to hide the fact that they chose Magic Leap so they could get in on the ground floor with a new platform that could potentially generate buzz -- similar to how one of Resolution's carnival games package, Wonderglade, was a launch title for Google's Daydream VR platform, and its fishing game Bait! made a splash on Samsung's Gear VR and the Oculus Go

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Resolution Games

There's no way I'd buy a Magic Leap for a taste of Angry Birds, but I could definitely see dropping a few bucks to get it on a cheap VR or AR platform that works with my phone.

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