Archive: Sep 2017

Liverpool One AR app launches for Revo exhibition

The Revo Conference and Exhibition, the UK’s largest retail property event, comes to Liverpool this week . One of the key presences at the show will be Liverpool One, the shopping destination that has helped to redefine Liverpool city centre. For Revo 2017 they have appointed Draw & Code to create an augmented reality app that helps to tell their story.

Revo is an annual event that tours the UK, having twice visited Liverpool, including in 2008 – the year that Liverpool One opened. As the city’s most prestigious and successful retail development, Liverpool One will have a starring role in the exhibition, hence they wanted a stand-out experience to mark the occasion.

As with many of Draw & Code’s projects, the technology is simply the right tool for the job rather than the emphasis of the experience itself. Augmented reality is ideal as it allows us to build in as much information and animation into a limited physical area as possible.

Chavasse Park

In this case that area is a shopping bag – but it was no ordinary shopping bag. Instead of a plastic bag or even a classy paper construction, we commissioned the set-designers at Liverpool Scenic to come up with weatherproof, free-standing sculptures that, despite their rigidity, were fashioned to look recognisable as a bag. Why not use a bag? For a start, the aim was for them to be oversized, but more crucially they may be required to withstand the autumn weather. The 50cm tall sculptures were mounted on plinths with the Liverpool One Revo designs resplendent upon them. Each bag acts as a marker that triggered animations and information to be overlaid onto them.

Creating the bags was no easy task. Liverpool Scenic opted to recreate the folds that would naturally appear in a paper or plastic bag by folding the wood used to make the model bags. That’s right, they folded thick wood, going through 20 prototype pieces in the process. Eventually they perfected the process and looked justifiably satisfied with the result.

For Revo there will be four of the augmented reality bags dotted around the city. The first of the 50cm bags is found at the ACC exhibition centre where Revo is taking place. The others can be found in four of the key areas of Liverpool One – Paradise Street, St Johns Street, Chavasse Park and Peter’s Lane.

Liverpool Revo

Delegates from the conference will be invited to see the bags come to life by pointing their phone or tablet at them. From each bag emerges a collage of scenes from the city and photoshoots of products. Constructed in Unity 3D, there are parallax effects and real depth to the collages in an attempt to capture some of the physical presence of the locations depicted.

Revo runs from the 19th until the 21st September.

What I learned from the Apple iPhone X event

Last night we stayed late in the studio to view the latest Apple Event. Love them, loathe them or if you’re perfectly content with your Nokia 3310 and a good book, there is no denying that Apple do tech press conferences like nobody else.

So there we were, glued to our screen (an iMac screen), grasping our iPhones (of course) to see Tim Cook and company in the Steve Jobs Theatre. We were ready for maximum Apple; they did not disappoint. Here’s what we gleaned from it all…

1. Moore’s Law is still in full effect.

And no, I’m not talking about the A11 Bionic chip – impressive as it may be. It was the detailed breakdown of the cellular Apple Watch that got me. Seriously, how is all that technology packaged in such a small space? Honey I Shrunk The Computer!

2. AR is here.

Well, it already was of course, we know that better than most. However, now it’s being heavily pushed by Apple we can expect the world to sit up and take notice. Apple’s developer’s tool for augmented reality, ARKit, is superb. We’ve been mighty impressed during our own experiments with it. When combined with the dual cameras and 3D scanners of the latest iPhones, it’s a recipe for some great augmented reality content. Factor in Google’s ARCore and Vuforia (Draw & Code’s current AR-engine of choice) and we’re being spoilt with tech and tools that can make even the most sci-fi of AR experiences a reality.

3. X is not X.

It’s 10, silly. Get some Latin lessons between watching the 10 Factor with Simon Cowell and playing with your Ben X toys.

4. It’s Deedra, not Deidre.

During the Apple Watch demo we heard from Deidre. She was pretty awesome, what with being on a lake while addressing the world and all that. However, it seems that in Silicon Valley they don’t pronounce it “Dear-Dree”, they say “Dee-Dra”. They do not sound like Ken Barlow, not one bit.

5. Apple has ‘deeper pixels’.

Whatever that is. No idea if they have heavy electricity too.

6. Apple TV’s lovely game and rubbish controller.

Aside from announcing that Apple TV will now carry ‘Live News’ (live news on TV? It will never catch on), there was a lovely game revealed called Sky. You could see John Lasseter lean his ample Hawaiian-shirted body forward for this part of the conference. In amongst the esoteric game demo, it was hard to get away from the fact that the controller was the Apple TV remote. Hmmm, excuse us for being sceptical. For starters, it’s so small you can lose it down the back of the couch (you can, I know this). Secondly, why have it at all? The Apple TV must appeal to the Apple aficionado who almost certainly has an iPhone and iPad to hand that could do so much more than a puny TV remote. Sony are already doing it with PlayLink – come on Apple, connecting devices is something you do so well. Heck, you’re now allowing us to use our iPhones to control charging of other devices, surely using it as a remote for TV and controller for games is logical?

7. Town Squares.

Not only were Apple Stores referred to multiple times as ‘Town Squares’, which was as pleasing on the ears as the sound of crying babies duetting with a scratched chalkboard, they will also be ‘changing the displays by the seasons’. Ya know, like every other shop always does. Nice one Apple.

8. Apple are behind Android. Again.

No, it’s not the wireless charging (AirPower? How about calling it Apple Juice?) or the 3D scanning (FaceID? Why wasn’t it called Eye-D?) – both of which have appeared in some form or another on other devices. Instead, where Android, and Samsung particularly, have really innovated is pricing. With their mightily expensive Galaxy Note 8 they paved the way for the £1,000 iPhone X. Having said that, £1,000 for a must-have gadget is nothing new – most VCRs were £400-£700 in the early 1980s, the equivalent of two iPhone Xs today.

8 Plus

This is a new number that fits between 8 and X. What do you mean you’ve never heard of it? I suppose you’re still running single cameras and quad cores too, you square.

9. There is no 9.

What did you expect? A number 9? We’re going straight onto X. We’ve already been over this.

10. The iPhone 8 (and 8 Plus) became obsolete in record time.

Apple are the undisputed champions of planned obsolescence – this time they outdid themselves by revealing two new phones, then showing a better one within half an hour. I may as well throw my iPhone 8 and 8 Plus in the bin right now.

Why the new iPhones heralds an augmented reality explosion

The latest iPhones, due to be revealed on Tuesday, could be the biggest shift-change in how we interact with technology in a decade. It was at the equivalent event ten years ago that Steve Jobs unveiled the iPhone and ushered in the era of the multi-touchscreen, now his successor, Tim Cook, is poised to reveal no less than three new iPhones – all with augmented reality at their core.

While producing immersive experiences for clients, the team at Draw & Code have already seen augmented reality grow into a medium that attracts tens, if not hundreds, of millions of users daily, primarily but not solely due to SnapChat. Now, on the eve of the next iPhone announcement, we are preparing for further popularisation of the technology as Apple throws its full weight behind it.

Screen Shot 2017-09-11 at 17.12.00

“Within the next decade two billion people will use AR-enabled apps daily,” says Draw & Code co-founder John Keefe, “It’s something Apple recognised when they started snapping up AR tech companies and now we’re about to see the fruits of that investment.”

With speculation that more than one smartphone will be revealed at the September 12th Apple event that marks a decade since Steve Jobs memorably showed the original iPhone to the world, the anticipation in tech-circles is building. It is widely predicted that the next generation of iPhones will be designed with AR in mind, especially as similar technology is also featured on rival Android devices including Sony’s new Xperia handset.

“I remember the revealing of the original iPhone and using it even before the App Store had come online” says John Keefe, Draw & Code co-founder, “It was clear that this would change the game for phones, computing and society as a whole – now augmented reality is poised to shake up the way we live our lives all over again.”

Draw & Code recently featured as one of the most influential companies working in AR alongside the likes of Pokemon Go-creators Niantic in the Venture Beat-published ‘2017 AR Landscape’. We have seen our peers rise from two-person teams to significant startups with investment of millions – this industry is growing up fast and is about to be accelerated by Apple’s latest gadgets.

Of course we have been experimented with Apple’s ARKit SDK ourselves, transferring some of the SwapBots characters into this markerless AR engine. Our work so far with ARKit has produced some startling results, when combined with the optimised abilities of the latest iPhones it will be a very powerful tool, just as Google’s ARCore looks set to be too.

“With Snapchat and Pokemon Go bringing AR to a wider audience the timing is perfect for Apple to commit to this medium” says John Keefe, “We regularly work out in Silicon Valley and the thinking there is that Apple’s ARKit and Google’s ARCore, along with existing AR platforms such as Vuforia, will give ambitious designers and developers the tools to change the way we interact with the world – this is big.”

A handy new smartphone feature is one thing, but revolutionising the world is quite another. So why does John think that AR will succeed where other much-vaunted products and technology has failed?

“AR is already accessible to billions of smartphone users world-wide and has the potential to turn any surface or space into an interactive, animated object – what’s not to like?”