I thought I would write about a project I am working on lately with augmented reality. I was approached a few weeks back to take on a failing project that another developer/designer wasn’t getting done in a timely manner. It had been a few months and there still wasn’t anything to be seen on an iPad (current initial target device for phase 1) and there was a bit of stress in the air to get this project done within a decent time frame and budget. I can’t even count how many of these types of projects we have walked into to “save the day” or whatever, and while I wasn’t entirely sure everything could be done, I knew that it was worth getting in to.
Augmented reality has been around for a bit and while there are a few companies out there doing this, I would say that Metaio is definitely on the forefront of it and working hard to stay there. This is the SDK that I used to build the application. While the documentation can be sparse here and there, I did find a decent amount of tutorials and webinars that led me through it all to a point of success.
The biggest challenge with AR app building is that there are so many different pieces to pull together. In this case we were targeting iOS, it is also quite probable that Android and/or desktop will be targeted too. In such a case one person or a team must know the following:
1. 3D design and development. In this application I used Blender to build and render out the models and animations to be used in the application. Not only do you need to model, but you need to animate most of the time too. There was a request for a particle based animation in the application too, with that you must use Unity. Again, another environment to pick up and figure out.
3. Photoshop or whatever for design. Obviously gotta use something for the UI, splash, icons etc.
4. After Effects or some motion graphics app for animated design. This may not be a requirement for some, but in this application it was requested to have animated graphics in place to simulate an experience. AE is the obvious choice in this case.
5. Metaio SDK. Lastly, the SDK that runs it all and makes it work. Starting from scratch I had to learn how it worked and why. Their site was invaluable for this and with lots of playing around, an augmented reality application came to life.
My point of all that is to highlight the fact that while you can be an expert at something, more often than not you need to be flexible to do things outside of your comfort zone. Having previous knowledge of 3D, design or coding in multiple environments and languages helps a lot obviously, but learning from scratch can be really cool and to me it brings up the important point that growing can be invaluable to current and future areas of work and interest. As it goes, once you have a hammer then you want to nail in nails all over the place and I have a pile of ideas of where to use augmented reality. I’ll post up again soon on what the application was about, but I kinda want to wait until it’s on the app store.
In conclusion I’d like to make a prediction about AR and it’s place in businesses. After working with it and seeing the limitations and abilities, I can definitely see a huge potential for future work and projects in this area. There are piles of games, gimmicks, sales tactics and practical applications for using a 3D object in place of a 2D one. Image and object recognition is amazing and you only have to take a look at a few of the advanced tutorials and webinars to see how far things can bet taken. It’s invigorating and I look forward to posting more soon on my travels in this area.