iRiS Universal AR


iRiS (c) Current Studios, 2012

Download on the App Store

Before I knew it we had created another brand. iRiS AR was designed as a template app for universal augmented reality (AR) experiences. As an idea its one constraint was that the functionality was geared to promote a range of corporate AR enabled advertisements, and as a result we decided to have the app take on a generic art direction. An early brainstorm considered the novelty of AR and landed the name “iris” with the idea of branding a new perspective on vision. I created the app icon on a whim on a weekend and continued to maintain its design along with the graphical user interface (GUI) of the iRiS AR app.

Halifax, N.S — Ad-Dispatch, North America’s leader in augmented reality development, have partnered with Astral Out-of-Home, leaders in outdoor advertising, to launch the first ever universal AR application. This unique partnership is the first of its kind. iRiS AR is a smartphone and tablet application that allows users to discover interactive AR experiences from imagery of companies interested in advertising on billboards, transit shelters, and other signage.

The iRiS AR app launched in August 2012 as a hub for AR marketing campaigns. Its early success drew awareness to the studio through the design of the iRiS brand, and the icon transitioned to company logo in mid-2012. This news broke as a pleasent surprise followed by a scramble to prepare the working files from the app icon for use in branding across media, for print on mini company-wide business cards and massive high-resolution posters.

Drambuie: A Taste of the Extraordinary

The release campaign for the iRiS AR app featured Drambuie — the original iRiS AR experience: A Taste of the Extraordinary. The clients called for a very creative art direction, “an experience of the surreal.” The idea was that a Drambuie bottle appeared in 3D in front of Drambuie billboards when people viewed them with their mobile phone with the iRiS AR app, and people tapped their phone to tip the bottle and see it spin and spill Drambuie… droplets that floated… up into the night sky.

iRiS AR A Taste of the Extraordinary screenshot

The technical challenge for me was to make the Drambuie bottle and liquid look and animate like the physical product except on a phone and in AR in an environment where computer processing was at a premium. A performance-based animation rig made it possible to spin and tip the bottle on edge without run-time rigid-body simulation or complex animation data. The “liquid” also needed a creative rigging solution because a run-time fluid simulation was not an option. Our lead developer on the project was Lionel Mille — Lille and I then needed to optimize the layered shaders in Unity 3D to find the look that best represented the reflection and refraction of Drambuie, both inside its bottle and as it emptied as floating golden droplets.

Select bus stops in Canada, below, were decorated for the occasion.

CN Tower: Edge Walk

Another early and fun client for iRiS AR was CN Tower, a major tourist attraction and the world’s largest free standing tower measuring at 553 meters found in Toronto, Canada. They were promoting an attraction where you can walk around the outside edge of the tower in a harness that is attached at 356 meters up. Ad-dispatch was challenged to re-create the experience on the Edge Walk on a mobile phone. And so to re-create the view of the Toronto skyline and cityscape from the CN Tower, we designed a VR experience that used the same gyroscope technology as is used for AR, and this time with a full digital world for people to look around in. The idea was to give people the experience of the CN Tower Edge Walk from their iPhone, iPad or Android — triggered off bus shelter poster ads around Toronto as well as billboards at Dundas Square.

iRiS AR App, Menu (c) Current Studios, 2013iRiS AR App, Info (c) Current Studios, 2013

Our lead animator was sent on a research trip to try to capture that magical feeling of vertigo, hanging off the side of the CN Tower. Oh, and we worked on this project in winter in Canada. The Edge Walk was closed due to cold weather (-35 degrees) and strong winds on the day San “the man” Mathew was scheduled to go up. He went up and gathered reference the very next day and has written an account of his experience, here. Spoiler: San made it back to the studio and stitched the panorama, below, from his vantage point from the rooftop of the CN Tower.

CN Tower, Edge Walk Panorama (c) Current Studios, 2013

© Current Studios, Edge Walk panorama

Meanwhile, I modeled a Canadian Forces Snowbird from a computer at the studio not at several hundred meters up in the sky, and for a bonus feature, below-right, for the same iRiS AR experience. Postscript: The app went on to win a Merit Award at the 2013 Ice awards in the multimedia category.

iRiS AR App, Edge Walk (c) Current Studios, 2013

iRiS AR Edge Walk screenshot

iRiS AR App, Edge Walk (c) Current Studios, 2013

iRiS AR Edge Walk screenshot | Snowbirds

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