An Augmented Reality App Is Not Just For Christmas

5 Min Read

An augmented reality app is not just for Christmas.

It’s well known that we always have a few side projects cooking at SSG. Currently we’ve got a battle royale mobile game, a spirits drinks hackathon and a social media customer service tool in development.

Now, we’ve added an AR app to that list. Before Christmas we conceptualised, built, and distributed a complete AR app in just three weeks. The whole thing, in three weeks.

SSG ARctic Circle

And because we believe in Solid State Group being the conduit between developers and the entrepreneurial community, we’re sharing our method for building the app, the tools we used, as well as our best tips for:

  • Startups who want to create MVPs for AR apps,
  • Innovators in large organisations who need a POC to engage stakeholders and link into the business goals.

So, in this blog I’ll include:

  1. The Build
  2. What startups should consider for AR MVP builds
  3. What corporate innovators should consider for AR

What The App Did

We built an app called SSG ARctic Circle to augment our company Christmas cards. Users would download the app for iOS or android (and it’s still freely available on the Appstore/Play Store!), then they’d point their camera at the card and interact with a 3D winter scene oriented on the table, and thus the real world would entwine with the virtual.

SSG ARctic Circle

The Build

We built ARctic Circle using Unity, an engine popularly used for games. An alternative would have been Unreal (which the likes of Borderlands and Bioshock use). If you’re a gamer you’ll know these two engines, and if you’re not a gamer, the gaming industry is a little goldmine for innovation ideas for business so spend some time reading up on it.

The second big tool we used was Vuforia. Vuforia is an AR platform which facilitates the creation of cross-platform augmented reality apps. The SDK works nicely with Unity, which is why we didn’t go with ARToolKit, which has a less well supported plugin. And quite frankly Vuforia seemed the more powerful platform of the two.

What Startups Should Consider

Startups, you want to move fast, change often, learn as you go - and make life easy for yourself because everything else is going to be very hard.

We made this app with the same mentality.

We picked Unity because we’d used it before. We know how it works, we can move fast. Done.

And why had we used Unity before? It has a well supported open source project called Unity UI Extensions, which contains such UI delights as ready-made accordions, horizontal scroll snaps, and tabs. The art of MVP making is to cobble together assets that someone else has already spent time on, so that you don’t end up reinventing the wheel. You want to be the Lewis Hamiltons of cutting corners. Sorry, the Lewis Hamilton tax lawyers of cutting corners.

Also, entrepreneurial is a synonym for hustle. Hustlers like free stuff, like Vuforia’s free version. Our app does have a watermark, but it’s a small price to pay for a great prototype.

For Corporate Innovators

For us, our AR app grew out of our desire to test our abilities with a new technology, and design something above and beyond a bog-standard Christmas card.

But the potential use cases for the app are much more diverse than that. This app is a piece of fried chicken waiting for the right pickles, cheeses, chilli and guac to transform it into a beer-battered burger of wonder.

For example, AR forms part of MarTech, which is providing some really interesting innovations for brand experiences. Ikea have their AR app superimposing furniture into people’s rooms. Acura (a luxury marque part of Honda) have viral videos with drivers racing each other on tracks with virtual jungle worlds.

We’re even brewing a few ideas for AR in the spirits industry, for brands with strong voices and stories to tell.

However, SSG is a bespoke software house, we’re not a large corporation with umbrella brands, so for those of you who are, here are the business cases to consider.

AR is forming part of the sales cycle for B2B too. The B2B funnel is long, with multiple stakeholders and deliverables, and AR apps can help at various stages. Firstly, AR content can form powerful content for your content marketing strategy, it can broaden your brand presence before a buyer gets anywhere near your new leads inbox.

At the other end, AR apps like ARctic Circle provide uniform or personalised demos for stakeholders or cross-functional teams like product development or logistics. The design team in London can manage the content on the app to engage the developers in Europe, while liaising with the client lead in Asia.

So, it’s a case of comparing the internal business goals and charting out the priorities for the decision-makers, then proposing AR as the solution they’ve been looking for. We’ve got the app up and running and we’d love to hear about potential use cases for it in your organisation.

SSG’s ARctic Circle was created for Christmas, so now it’s searching for its forever home.

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