By some extraordinary margin, ‘Archer‘ is the TV show that does the most to enhance the obsessive fan’s experience. Far beyond just letting people watch the episodes and be done with it, the show has gone to extreme lengths to hide tiny clues in the background of scenes; threads that, when pulled, have lead internet sleuths on massively intricate journeys that culminate in easter eggs or extra character-based content.
The show’s done such a good job of it they’ve taken out back-to-back Emmys for Outstanding Creative Achievement in Interactive Media. Which isn’t a bad effort for something that was conceived as a throwaway experiment.
For the show’s upcoming eighth season – one where they’ll again completely transplant the show into a different time period because fuck it, why not – they’re taking that extra-screen experience to a place not seen on a television show before.
The show just announced that they’ll be using augmented reality to hide easter eggs, games, and extra footage inside broadcast episodes and advertising material; stuff that the viewer can access via a smartphone app called Archer P.I..
It’s largely being based on the same technology that Pokemon GO! was built on; a platform that utilises the device’s camera and encourages users to interact with static objects in their day-to-day lives.
Speaking to Uproxx, series technical director Bryan Fordney explained the concept behind the technology, and how it differs slightly to the more widely-known Virtual Reality.
“The app itself is really exciting. It’s using the core concept of augmented reality. By AR I mean a game that uses your camera or some other device to capture a feed and the real environment around you. VR takes up your whole vision, AR augments your experience.”
Fordney also explained the surprisingly complex process of identifying objects in the animation that are suitable for linking to AR content.
“We have to start at a point where the episode is pretty much completely animated. We need to find images, that are targets in the show that work well. It’s tricky. You take a bunch of inanimate objects, and you’re like ‘OK, what is the story we can tell here.’ Those objects create more objects we create out of thin air, and as you interact with them, you uncover items that aren’t targets.”
Meanwhile executive producer Matt Thompson elaborated on that process, which essentially involves going back over a completed episode and starting the process from scratch.
“The object that’s coded needs to have a high amount of contrast value. So it has to either have its own defined shape or enough contrast. For example, there’s a safe with a spinning lock. The lock didn’t have enough contrast for the app to capture it properly, so we went back to change the lock to give it more contrast, and make sure it was featured in such a way that you can snap a picture.”
The app’s official description hints that viewers will be able to source clues from the episodes that will assist them in solving special cases put forward in the AR experience.
“Once the season starts, each episode will offer new clues that fans can find and collect in order to solve the case. Clues are discovered by pointing a phone or tablet’s camera at a television, computer or real world objects, activating animated experiences and collectible objects. Fans who use the app are also eligible for a weekly sweepstakes for prizes to reward their detective skills.”
Frankly, that all sounds kickass.
The app is being made available via iTunes, Google Play, and Amazon, though it is not available in Australia just yet. There’s also no word on whether or not the AR experience will be extended to out here when it airs locally on ABC or the Comedy Channel.
Archer’s 8th season, subtitled ‘Archer: Dreamland‘, begins airing in the US from April 5th. In it, the cast is being whisked back to the hard-boiled setting of 1940s Los Angeles.