The Reality of AR

Augmented reality and digital print go hand in hand.

Ever since the launch of the widely popular augmented reality (AR) Pokémon Go mobile game in 2016, AR technology has been on the rise. AR involves superimposing computer-generated data onto existing real-world views, which makes the technology accessible via the smartphone devices owned by 77 percent of Americans. The fact that real-world elements are required for AR experiences is great news for PSPs; augmented reality – which often requires scanning a code/image to begin the experience – and digitally printed elements go hand in hand.

According to a report from eMarketer, 68.7 million people are expected to use AR at least once per month in the US in 2019. Hello, great opportunity. Your shop can be on the cutting edge of technology and establish itself as an industry thought leader; the possibilities at the juncture of digital print + AR are vast and virtually untapped, especially in the wide-format space. Imagine scanning a concert poster and the band appearing right before your eyes, persuading you to buy tickets. Or a construction wrap that gives a tour of the finished retail space. Now is the time to set your business apart by tapping into this emerging market. Here, we offer a glimpse of the digital print opportunities made possible by AR technology.

Capitalizing on AR

Washington Capitals #ALLCAPS Fan Week

To celebrate the Washington Capitals #ALLCAPS Fan Week in April, presented by Bud Light, the NHL team crafted a fun and unique way for fans to celebrate: augmented reality coasters. The team partnered with Bud Light and Balti Virtual to create coasters that launch an AR game, available for free at two Capitals games and 22 DC-area bars. (Out of town fans could get in on the fun by downloading and printing their own, too.) By scanning the coasters with the AppAR8 app, users opened the Tilt the Ice game, transforming the coaster into a rink with an interactive, 3D goaltender. By tilting the coaster left and right, gamers controlled the goalie to get as many saves as possible before the timer ran out. The use of image recognition and a native app available in the Apple and Google Play stores enabled the AR experience to be controlled by the digital print, rather than the phone.

Washington Capitals #ALLCAPS Fan Week "At Monumental Sports and Entertainment, we are always looking for new and emerging technologies that will enhance our fans’ experience and connection with our brand and believe this game, the first of its kind in the NHL, is a perfect step into the always advancing AR field," said James Heuser, Capitals senior director of digital media, in a release. Users were encouraged to screenshot and share their high scores on social media for a chance to win prizes – connecting digital print to AR to cyberspace. Win, win, win.

Wake Up

The reality of climate change can be hard to visualize; most people don’t encounter starving polar bears, shrunken glaciers, and rising sea levels on a daily basis. An interactive, mixed-reality art installation in the heart of NYC’s Times Square aimed to change that by (literally!) immersing visitors in the discussion around climate change.

Wake and Unmoored

From July to September of last year, Times Square visitors could experience a future where global warming has gone unchecked, with rising waters and boats floating down Broadway Plaza 26 feet in the air. Artist Mel Chin’s two-part installation, Wake and Unmoored, was presented by Times Square Arts, No Longer Empty, and Queens Museum in partnership with UNC Asheville and Microsoft. Wake featured a 24 x 34 x 60-foot installation of a shipwreck with a 21-foot-tall animatronic sculpture, serving as an entry point into Unmoored, the mixed and augmented reality activation available through Microsoft HoloLens headsets or an iOS/Android app for smartphones.

Users located one of the six nodes positioned near the Wake installation, which activated the AR experience: The shipwreck transformed into a full-scale model of the USS Nightingale, other boats made their way downstream until they were bunched in a gridlock, and sea life appeared.

Wake and Unmoored
Wake by Mel Chin. Commissioned by Times Square Arts in partnership with No Longer Empty and the Queens Museum. Supported by the Times Square Alliance.
Image courtesy of Chelsea Lipman for Times Square Arts.

According to a release, “With Wake and Unmoored, Chin hopes to spark deeper personal investigations through digital devices, and provoke an enlightened stewardship of human actions in relation to global warming realities. … Chin creates a virtual gateway to an alternate future to test viewers’ imaginations about our place in the Earth’s transforming climate.”

Physical components of the installation were engineered and fabricated at UNC Asheville’s STEAM Studio, while 100 square feet of graphics for containers and a kiosk near the Unmoored activation were printed by Knam Media with an HP Latex 360 onto 3M Controltac Graphic Film with Comply v3 Adhesive IJ180Cv3-10, finished with 3M Scotchcal Matte Overlaminate 8520.

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