Union launched an innovation initiative that was committed to monthly research and exploration. The first exploration was into augmented reality. Union was hosting a block party at their new office space. I built an augmented reality tour experience that we could lean on during any office tour, both guided and self-guided. The prototype would aim to enhance visitors’ experience of Union's space, while incorporating a unique spin that played to the block party theme.
Aim a tablet at a sign labeled “Office Tour Starts Here” and watch it explode into a burst of confetti. See the multicolored words reading “Welcome to the Block Party” float into the air above it. That’s how you know you’ve begun Union’s inaugural augmented reality tour.
To get started, we leveraged the Unity game engine for its strong support for AR development. For an accurate placement reference, we imported a 3D model of the office building into Unity.
In such a large space, the need to scan an image marker for each piece of digital content in the experience wasn't ideal. So, persistent AR seemed to make the most sense. However, when actually testing persistent AR solutions, we found a flaw: the reliance on ARKit and ARCore for tracking and plane detection. ARKit and ARCore are not yet built for persistent AR experiences of this scale. At certain distances, we’d easily lose tracking or original orientation. We decided to incorporate a popular image marker platform called Vuforia, which added a persistence feature to image marker detection. With Vuforia, we found it possible to scan an image marker, lose track of that image marker, yet maintain position of objects by relying on ARKit and ARCore tracking and plane detection as a fallback.
To make the path through the office obvious for the app user, we created a number of guiding elements. That included a black and white animated path indicating the route through the office, as well as an arrow with text that appeared on the image targets to indicate viewing direction. We topped it off with a 2D interface that presented a series of directional prompts (like “look up”) throughout the tour. This enabled self-guided tours.
The app was a huge success, creating an exciting conversation-starter for partygoers on scheduled and self-guided tours alike. The experience offered an engaging, immersive way to share a chapter of Union's story with clients, friends and colleagues.