Posted by Lucas Nygaard
Core elements of an augmented reality experience
Augmented reality makes it possible to create a virtual layer on top of the real world. With Hololink you can finally take the power of this awesome technology that was originally invented for fighter jet pilots but is now accessible on any smartphone or tablet. Here are some pointers to get you thinking about the possibilities within your industry, whether it’s education, marketing, events, communication, or anything else.
Experiencing augmented reality is relatively new to most people. Therefore, as creators, we need to make the users know what will happen and what they get out of it. If the experience is part of an already established structure, such as a class lecture, the teacher can simply explain. But if it takes place at a museum or the experience is triggered by a magazine or a poster, you need to tell the users what the experience is and what comes out of it. For a museum, it could be “explore the museum in a new way with our augmented reality guide.” For a magazine or poster it could be “meet the characters of the movie in AR” or “learn more about our product with this interactive augmented reality experience.” Make sure that the motivation fits with your target audience since different audiences are motivated by different stuff. Motivations could be exclusive content, discounts, or new knowledge.
The important thing is explaining why the user should engage with your content and how they do it. For the Hololink platform, we included a splash screen on the augmented reality experiences where you can write an introduction to the experience.
Augmented reality is made possible with computer vision, cameras looking at the world and understanding it enough to add something on top of it, through a screen. Like your tablet, smartphone or whatever device that has a screen, camera and internet access. So the first thing you need to think about is where you want to add a virtual layer. In order for the camera to recognize whatever you want to augment, it needs to know what it’s looking for. Therefore it needs to be something flat that you can upload a picture of. For example the front page of a book, a movie poster, a billboard or the side of a milk carton. Once you decide where you want your virtual layer to be, it’s time to look into what you want to add.
So you decided where you want to add a virtual layer. So what should the layer contain? If you want to simply make it start moving, you could add a video. Like the paintings in Harry Potter that talk to whoever walks by them at Hogwarts. But why not make something pop out of the object you decided to augment? It could be atoms from a science lesson popping out of a school book or a character that jumps out of a milk carton. This is done with 3D objects. These can be downloaded from websites like Google Poly or Sketchfab or created through online platforms such as TinkerCAD or 3D Slash or with programs such as Blender or AutoCAD. A 3D file consists of a mesh, which is the basic geometry of the object, and some textures, which are the colors of the object. They can also contain animation data so that when you upload them into Hololink, the move. These files often come in the form of Glb, where all the elements are encapsulated of Gltf which comes together with a .bin file, and sometimes some external texture files, which come as picture files. It is important to make sure that all files necessary to reproduce a 3D object are present when you upload.
Interactions Just seeing something on top of something else is only the first part of the experience. To fully take control of the medium, you should add some interactivity. Think about what choices the user should have and what would happen as a consequence of these choices. For example, if your experience involves a character, he or she could ask the user some questions. Depending on the users' answers, the character could dance, be sad, or reveal something hidden. Or if your experience involves explaining something to the user, content could change depending on what questions the user has.
Call to action You should always think of the full user story when you create an augmented reality experience. How it’s triggered, what the user gets out of it, and what comes next. To finish off the experience, you could send the user to your website or social media channel. Or give them access to a secret discount code or show them extra content, that’s only available for users who sent through the augmented reality experience.
Expand the possibilities Augmented Reality as a medium, is still in its infancy. These are some general pointers to the core elements, but this is only the beginning. At Hololink we’re constantly experimenting and exploring new possibilities. If you want to join us on this journey, sign up for early access to our platform, to create your own augmented reality experiences.