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Bringing a physical space to life with an AR mural

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Augmented reality (AR) enables us to create overlapping realities, allowing us to move seamlessly between multiple worlds. As the lines blur between the digital and physical, there are a growing number of opportunities for AR to enrich our three-dimensional spaces.

Bringing a physical space to life with AR is easier to do than ever before, partly due to the sophistication of AR technology, and tools such as Facebook's platform, Spark AR, becoming more accessible.

A team of designers at our Sydney studio wanted to showcase ustwo's local presence by creating an augmented reality 'welcome mural' for our studio door, that would create a delightful experience for the public, and encourage curiosity about our studio from passersby. We chose to use Spark AR for the project as the final experience would be accessible to anyone with a Facebook account.

Designing in AR

Before designing in AR, there are a few things to consider which can impact the success of the experience:

Image complexity

Before creating the design, we needed to consider the way the AR application would scan and recognise the artwork. The graphics needed high colour contrast distinction and a certain level of complexity in order to get picked up by a devices camera.

Spatial Considerations

An important consideration is the physical space an AR experience will happen in. Our studio door is located close to a road, so we needed to be careful with how far the 3D elements would extend. We didn’t want people to feel dis-orientated and risk tripping over.

Simple and intuitive user experience

To handle this we designed an unobtrusive on-boarding user interface. We kept the design and messaging minimal to encourage exploration and curiosity.

We also designed and mounted a plaque with simple instructions and a QR code to let people in the vicinity know our studio door was interactive.

The Mural: Representing Our Brand and Values

We wanted the ‘Welcome Mural’ to feel as 'ustwo' as possible. Our brand is vibrant and energetic but at its heart it’s conveyed through our people and company culture. In order to achieve this we used simple shapes and patterns to represent our companies values in the abstract.

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Be Human:The eye represents empathy and putting our authentic selves first

Learn Together:The triangles connecting at the centre point represent the nature of collaboration

Enjoy the Journey:The sweeping mountain symbolises the journey

Use the Freedom:The bird represents unlimited mobility and freedom

Raise the Bar:The gold medal represents always pushing for the best:

Sydney:Representing our city with the famous Sydney Opera House

By focusing on each value in isolation, the challenge was then seamlessly bringing them together. By cascading and interconnecting these we created one beautiful, impactful piece of artwork.

The Experience: Bringing the Artwork to Life

The next phase was bringing the ‘Welcome Mural' to life. We started by importing our artwork into Blender where we were able to add depth, texture and motion in ways that would be impossible with flat visuals. Each element would be solidified, extruded and placed on the z-axis, which helped us determine which elements would appear closest to the user.

With everything set we could then easily animate our objects. Blender has excellent animation features built in, allowing you to do most of your 3D work in just one program.

We are still in the stage where most AR experiences are focused on entertaining, but that’s all starting to change quite rapidly. An AR activated mural or sign opens up a myriad of opportunities and possibilities to engage with and inform your audience and new tools like Spark AR are making it easier than ever to jump in and make your own.

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Painted by Lotte Smith, local artist.

Do you have an idea you would like to bring to life in AR? We'd love to hear from you at hello@ustwo.com.