Augmented-reality game Ingress arriving on Android Wear watches

The multiplayer game that uses real-world environments as its playground is now even more accessible -- as an app on our wrists.

Gaming
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Ingress players can will soon be able to access the game's core functions from their Android Wear smartwatch like Motorola's Moto 360. Niantic Labs

Ingress, the augmented reality smartphone game that sets player factions against one another in real-world environments, is moving to the wrist.

Next month, players will be able to access functions of the app from Android Wear smartwatches, creator Niantic Labs said Friday. The game, which uses a device's GPS to overlay crucial points of interest for players near or around landmarks and other areas around the globe, will now let you see friendly and enemy so-called portals from your wrist. It will also let you take action to defend or capture those areas right from the watch face.

Ingress was created by Niantic Labs, a startup within Google, in fall 2012 and has since attracted a dedicated following, with more than 9 million downloads between Google's Android mobile operating system and Apple's iOS. As opposed to sitting on your couch to play the military shooter Call of Duty, Ingress urges players to get out into the world and travel to various locations -- even across country borders -- to meet up with other players for both impromptu sessions and large-scale organized events.

That Ingress is moving to smartwatches is a testament to the wearable design type as a viable platform for gaming. Though you have less real estate on a small circular or square screen, the ability to interact with simple taps while keeping your attention more focused on your surroundings allows for different kinds of gaming experiences, including incorporating the fitness elements of wearables. For instance, Ingress players can dedicate more time to interacting with other members of the game instead of burying their faces in smartphone screens.

There's a still a critical lacking of high-profile titles for smartwatches, but that's changing as wearables become more mainstream. A popular app for smartwatch startup Pebble's platform is last year's mobile sensation Flappy Bird, and big-name publisher Electronic Arts is also considering making standalone games for wearables as well as companion wearable apps that compliment mobile titles.

Though it's confined to smartphones and, now, smartwatch screens, Ingress was designed to be the "ultimate augmented reality app," says John Hanke, head of Niantic Labs. That means that as smartphone technology advances and the burgeoning market for virtual and augmented reality evolves, Ingress will with it.

Google itself is currently working on giving smartphones the ability to "see," using spatial mapping from an initiative called Project Tango. A growing crop of companies, like Microsoft and secretive Florida-based startup Magic Leap, are also building devices that overlay 3D images on top of our environment, giving us true augmented reality.

"Things like Tango and Magic Leap will be awesome for games like Ingress," Hanke said, though he's happy with how passionate the fanbase is now with just their smartphones.

"We're building a line-up of AR games for our phones and Android Wear," he added, "and whatever cool future devices get adopted in the future."

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