Preparation tips for an Augmented Reality project

So you want to create an Augmented Reality (AR) project. Where do you start?. I will give you some hints and direction on how to safely and sanely get through the process of creating an Augmented Reality. Especially if you have no idea what you are doing.

First things first: Are you sure Augmented Reality is what you need to achieve your objective?

Some of my clients are actually not sure if Augmented Reality is the correct avenue to accomplish their goals. Most of the time they have goals but they do not know the medium that they needed. Some actually followed hype.

So have a look around in Youtube for videos of Augmented Reality and how people are using it and see if this is what you are looking for. There is nothing more disappointing than having gone through the project halfway and realizing this is not what you want.

Now, look for an example in Youtube or an app to serve as an example or a benchmark of the AR project that you aim to build

Having a video example will give you the understanding on what effect and capabilities you can achieve in AR. Usually, what you see is what mainly is possible to do in AR using the tools currently available. Sorry for “Popping your expectation bubble” but its good to understand beforehand what you can possibly do and what you cannot do. AR is amazing but it ain’t a wizard wand that can do everything you want. You will need to work around some limitations

If you are engaging an AR developer to develop your AR, having a video to show them give them a clear idea of what you are trying to accomplish and this will make the design and development processes a lot easier and smoother for both parties

If you are developing this on your own, look for an example or tutorial in Youtube that has a description of the tools they use or check out demo videos that the developers of the tools such as Vuforia has posted online to see what is possible to do when the tools are pushed to the limits. This way you can be realistic in what you are trying to achieve. Most of the time, their limit is your limit too. Try to push it, you can but take note that it might not end up like you expected it to be.

Okay, so where do we get the contents and resources from?

AR is the medium, the contents that AR carries usually are Animated 3D models, Static 3D models, Videos , Images , Audio etc. These are the resources you need to build an AR experience. So in this aspect you have a few options.

Note: Different tools uses different format for resources. Some requires 3d models in FBX formats, others can accept 3ds or obj. THey might require mp4 formats for videos, etc. If you are developing on your own check the tool’s documentation first for the required format. You might need to do some conversions if you do not have the correct format. So doing it right the first time saves time and sanity.

If you acquired the services of an AR developer, they usually have services and professionals that will take care of all this. Just make sure you are on the same page with them before giving them the go-ahead. Creation/acquisition/modification of these resources will cost money and requires time. This goes both ways for you and the developer. Content Development is a labour intensive process.

For self-developers, If you have the money you can buy these resources from websites such as CG Trader, iStockphotos or if you need a customized content, you should approach a professional. If you need 3D models, enlist the services of a 3D modeller, if you need animation, find a 3D animation professional. You might also need to enlist services from an Audio or Video professional depending on your needs.

If you self-develop and don’t have the money or are doing a non-profit work, you can search around for free 3D models, images, videos and audios. Work with your creativity to edit them on your own or enlist a help of a friend with such skills. Free things rarely comes in the format you need so some conversions might need to be done.

Start from an example/template AR if possible

You do not have to start from scratch everytime. Search around for tutorials that closely resembles what you are trying to do and start there. Some of them provides example files that you can edit and customize instead. You can also search around in Unity Assets Store, Code Canyon, and other websites for completed AR templates and start from there. Also look if you could utilize the samples provided by the tool developers. Vuforia have some strong samples that can save you hours of development. Time is money and sanity is important.