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Happy! AR App Review (iOS)

Today I downloaded HAPPY! AR. It’s an Augmented Reality app which is based on the American television comedy-series carrying the same name. The series was premiered on Syfy on December 6, 2017. The series tells the story of Nick Sax, an intoxicated, corrupt ex-cop turned hitman.  The series was adapted from the comic book series by writer Grant Morrisson and artist Darick Robertson.

To celebrate the premire of Happy!, SYFY was released on Wednesday, a few days before the premire of Happy!. In this AR iOS app (available for Android as well), you get to interact with this eponymous blue winged horse. you can change its looks, make him say different lines and even watch him answer some of your questions,

Here is me playing around with the iOS version of the app (ARKit/using 9.7-inch iPad 2017).

The app was developed using Apple’s ARKit technology for iOS and Google’s ARCore for Android. However, it should still work with older devices that are not compatible with either of those two technologies. Probably has some kind of a fallback using other AR frameworks. Of course for the best experience, it’s recommended to use an ARKit or ARCore compatible phone or tablet device. I reviewed this app using my 9.7-inch iPad 2017. The app isn’t optimized for tablets, I still get those black borders on the sides with the x1/x2 button.

Here is the full first episode of HAPPY! on Syfy YouTube channel if you are interested. Just keep in mind that HAPPY!  Just so you know, this is an ultra-violent TV series is rated 17+ by common sense media (independent, nonprofit organization). HAPPY makes its entrance in 27:12 minute if you just want to see his first entrance without watching the whole episode.

Happy character flying in my living room.
I welcomed Happy to my living room. We both had a quality time together, right Happy?

How can I review this app without watching the first episode fully? Well, that exactly what I did. I wanted to get related to the character so I can “feel” the app better.

The first episode was very twisted and beautifully directed. Although the TV series is aimed at the mature audience, the iOS app is rated 4+. I know it sounds odd, and this is in fact where I have a bit of a problem which is not directly related to the quality of the app itself, it’s important to say that, but I do want to address it in my review.

First of all, I didn’t find an official rating for the TV series (maybe you can help me out) but it was rated 17+ by common sense media. According to their page, and I quote:

Our ratings are based on child development best practices. We display the minimum age for which content is developmentally appropriate.“.

Happy with my cat in augmented reality
My cat meets Happy for the very first time. I think he likes him.

Common Sense Media also wrote: “This one is not for kids.“.

Now, the app is definitely aimed at TV series fans, but it feels more suitable for kids which the TV series itself apparently isn’t suitable for. For me, it seems that there is a big gap between the audience that these the app and the TV series are aimed for.

Don’t get me wrong really enjoyed the first episode because of the non-stop action happening on screen in just 45 minutes. It’s also funny and entertaining and I have to admit that it was refreshing watching a series with a 3D character, especially how cute he looks and acts.

Furthermore, once you get familiar with Happy, it’s nice seeing him coming to life in your living room. The experience feels very similar to the TV series, where the virtual becomes a part of the real world. So if you want to feel how the character in the TV series feel when they see Happy, how you can with this app. Obviously, the digital part was added later to the filmed scene and the actors haven’t seen it live in front of them (maybe in the future the technology will allow it). Having said that, with a bit of ingenuity you can easily correlate with it, like we do any other movies that involve mixed digital content, like in Star Wars for example.

Happy! ARKit app customization screen
Nice selection of customization items to make your Happy look different every time.

I didn’t like how the interaction with the character was implemented in this app. The voice recognition in a nice feature but iHappy didn’t answer any of my questions correctly (and believe me, I asked a lot of questions) and tapping to trigger an animation just felt like I am directing a puppet.

The animations and the character voices (by Patton Oswalt) were exceptional, but because these animations had to be triggered manually, it didn’t seem like I am actually interacting with Happy itself. I felt much more enjoyment interacting with a character in the pet simulator ARKit app AR Dragon. It’s just tedious having to tap on each phrase to see Happy’s reactions, regardless how amusing they are.

That being said, the developer did employ some random animations and voices that occur even if you are not interacting with it. This makes the virtual character feel alive, even without any direct interaction on behalf of the user.

The app also allows you to customize Happy by changing his hat, skin color, hoof color, and add some accessories to make him look unique.  You can also take snapshots and record videos of Happy with other people in the frame—it’s an AR app after all.

Conclusion

Although I did find the app lacking direct interactions as the built-in dialogue feature didn’t work well for me (it might work for you better though). The app does feature great animations, superb voice acting, funny customization items, a large variety of voice lines followed by animations (not the same animation with lip-synching) and a built-in AR camera app that lets users take photos and record videos with Happy within them.

It’s a nice app for the TV series fans, kids, and teens alike. The thing is that if you give it to a kid, he or he will probably be interested in knowing where this character is coming from. If I was a parent, I wouldn’t in any way want my child to watch this TV series. This is why I have an ambivalent opinion about whether this app, which rated 4+ on the App Store is right for kids. I guess you’ll be the judge of that.

Overall, an entertaining app that is good more as a promotional tool than anything else.  Still, I’m sure that fans of the series as well as kids and teens will find it amusing, especially once they experience it in augmented reality.

Here are some useful links: the Official page on SYFY. IMDBiOS app, Android app. The iOS version of the app is compatible with iOS 9.0 or later.

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