Augmented Reality Experiments

Hi! My name is Ashley, and I am a digital artist and developer from the West Midlands. I make many things with technology and help organisations bring to life their creative ideas.

I have spent some time over the summer working with Brick by Brick Communities on the Carnival In A Box project to look at how creative technology can be used to augment the carnival experience. Given the current pandemic and the impact on carnivals, we have been exploring how Augmented Reality, alongside craft activities, could bring alive some of the key elements of carnival in an exciting way for audiences, especially those isolated at home.

During the prototyping process I created an augmented reality smartphone application that was useable by the team to explore some of the potential uses of this technology for themselves, and to have some fun exploring technology powered experiences at home.

App Loading Screen

I built the App using Unity, a 3d game engine that powers many creative and immersive 3d augmented experiences. This allowed for quickly experimenting with Augmented Reality and producing a working app for the team to install on their own Android smartphone devices.

A marker printed on paper

I spent my time looking into 3 areas of how this technology could be used.

  • Costume Augmentation
  • Video and Animation playback
  • Street Scene / Performance

Using the logo design as image markers, I trained the database so that these images could be ‘recognised’ by the app and overlay content on top. These markers were printed on paper, but the future potential for printing on fabric for example would enable more immersive and embedded styles and designs.

Following the cardboard box theme, I was able to place the markers and content into a physical box to playback short video clips and animations.

Looking at some of the website activities, I also experimented with placing the markers on various points on the costume. This looked at the fantail, the backpack and the harness idea.

For quick results, I used a series of lo-poly effects and imagery to bring a 3d look and animated feel. For future development, there is huge potential for incorporating modelling of actual costume elements and designs of many carnival styles for a larger than life feel. Hand drawn, crafted and sculpted items with animated effects are all an exciting possibility.

A final experiment was thinking about recreating the street scene and parade. Using 3d lo-poly objects and characters, the markers were placed in a book to provide a street background.

The ability to place different smaller markers onto the scene as the ‘performers’ allowed for a customised mix and match approach, especially as more than one marker would work at the same time. Currently there is no real representation of carnival artists and street performers within 3d models and this was identified as perhaps a place for further exploration and development including actual modelling and mapping of real artists.

Take a look at some of the development photos and videos below to see some of the creative process that has gone into making this into a reality.

This prototype was the first step in the research and development of using this technology. There were many exciting thoughts for the future and how we can expand upon the work done this summer.

Some of the thoughts for the future include motion capture of performers, embedded as 3D within the app to truly bring the performance to the audience. Thinking about we can capture the feel and vibe, bringing into audiences hands and looking at accessibility and diversity by using creative technology to appeal to a wider audience.

BbBC are looking at ways to incorporate this type of technology into their future work and if any artists, venues, promoters or technology partners have any questions then please do get in touch.