Prototyping with AR (part 1)

The AR game is going strong on Instagram and Snapchat with silly filters and animated objects,  but aside of entertainment, it doesn’t bring too much usefulness to our daily life.

So, wondering on how AR could be used in a normal, and useful, situation; I thought I could build a simple prototype to test if it is worth it to augment information on common items.

An item that’s is apparently losing its popularity are postcards. Because of how fast is to send a message through any social media, the need to send a postcard seem like a practise of the past, however getting one nowadays has more value than getting a text message. It implies a number of rituals: writing a message, going to the post office; and on the receiving part, getting a surprise, reading and treasuring something that implies that you are valuable for someone else that took the time to write and send one. But aside of that value, the empty postcard doesn’t have a great value for the buyer, aside of a pretty picture on one side.

So, at least for tourism, there’s an application that can be done with AR, and that is putting more information about a place on the postcard like:

  1. 3d Objects:  that convey architectural features, like a church or a monument. It could be viewed by who received the postcard and get a better idea of the place.
  2. 360º panoramas: it can immerse someone who has never been to that particular place, and probably attract them for a future visit.
  3. Information about the place: to get more and more data if it is interesting.
  4. Links to video: promoting tourism and features that you shouldn’t miss if you visit the place.

So far those are the ideas, and the first prototype is the 3d object:

I built a quick 3d model in Blender of a church that got from, which is a workshop made for architecture students at my university.

3d Model in blender

The catch for the 3d model, is that is has to be done with the least amount of polygons possibles, like designing for old videogames. That way older phones are able to process the 3d object quickly.

The uv texturing was really odd to do, since I had only low resolution images, but since it is a prototype, I tried to keep it functional.

The second part was to create a postcard. I found a photo from another website that had a better resolution to build the postcard. The ones on the pdf of the university workshop weren’t really good.

And the third part was using a framework that allow phones to display Augmented Reality without installing any app. I found one  named AR.js, which it’s perfect for this, since it’s very lightweight and works on almost any phone. (sorry to the users of old nokia phones ).

I also included the use of another framework: a-frame, from mozilla labs, since it’s really easy to build a 3d scene with it.

The initial result is here, you can print the PDF, go to this link or scan the QR code in the postcard, and see for yourself a model of the church on the photo of the postcard.

Later I will change the photo for an image or illustration of a local monument, and the 3d model obviously to match the image.

I’m stuck now creating a 2d UI on top of the scene, so the user can access buttons and link to other scenes like a 360 panorama of the place or more information, but I hope to see that solved next week.