A few months ago, there were a few augmented reality conferences in Beijing. So while in Seoul, Korea recently I paid a visit to one of the companies I met here – MobileBus.

Established in 2006, MobileBus started with two people as a 3D gaming studio but now has over sixty people across Korea and China with a focus on building marker based augmented reality (AR) mobile games; the first being ‘3 Kingdoms’.

So how does it work? Think about it like this – you activate the app with a camera and focus it on a piece of paper that almost looks like a bar code or a pattern of squares.  Almost magically little 3D characters appear on the screen, as if they are standing on top of the table.

MobileBus was started by John Lee. Lee originally worked at a leading Finnish publisher and developer of advanced 3D mobile game technologies called Fathammer. Although he later left Fathammer he is cooperating with them to use their technology. MobileBus is also the key distributor for Artoolworks in Korea, a leading commercial developer and licensor of tools and applications for AR.

Like any normal application, a user can download the game onto their mobile phone. In Korea, a user can download it from the SK Telecom app store and then the marker will be sent to them by email which they can print off. In China, MobileBus is pre-loading their games in all Samsung phones sold.

John believes that one of the main challenges for AR to be accepted into the mainstream is cross-platform consistency, especially with Android with so many different specs like camera quality; “this needs to be solved for AR to take off.” With Korea widely known for its strong manufacturing technology companies such as Samsung; Android is starting to dominate the market with 6.5 million phones versus 3 million i-Phones. This means a standard has to be developed for AR to flourish in the growing Android market. Another main challenge is people’s awareness of AR. John also thinks that carriers and device makers must support with marketing and technical efforts to drive user uptake of mobile AR.

3 Kingdoms will be officially released in a month and the company also has plans to rollout another 2 games in the next year. The target users are aged 10-25 years old.

Jason is an Australian born Chinese living in Beijing, specializing in entrepreneurship, start-ups and the investment eco-system in China, especially in the tech and social area.

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