An AR theme park hide-and-seek game that makes the most out of the augmented reality experience

The Challenge

The initial challenge was to design an unofficial 2D 'Google Doodle'. We chose to push ourselves to use 3D modelling and JavaScript libraries to create a purpose-built augmented reality Doodle.

The Project

Google Doodles are fun, interactive art pieces that temporarily take the place of Google's logo on their search engine to celebrate events. The Doodle AR project celebrates the 125th Anniversary of the Ferris Wheel. On Google's home page, a 'ticket' with an AR marker would replace the logo. The user could print the ticket and use a smartphone to see their own private theme park appear on the table in front of them.

The most significant challenge in this project was the ideation process. Augmented reality is an innovative and novel experience for users and starting to pop up everywhere, but truly valuable AR is less common. If a solution can be done better in 2D or non-augmented reality, then pivoting the experience to AR only adds potential technical and user experience complications.

The Doodle AR project took rounds and rounds of ideation to ensure we were creating true value in an AR experience. Here are just a few of the ideas we debated before settling on the fair:

- floating solar system experience
- flight of Voyager 1 experience
- germ-fighting game
- table-top colour theory toy
- theory of evolution game
- Frogger-style game
- microscope game
- timeline data visualization
- live data visualization
- museum experience
- taxonomy exploration tool
- living terrarium experience
- CP Railway experience
- architecture cutaway tool

By repeatedly testing the experience of AR markers, and having long debates over ideation, the team discovered our key values for the product we wanted to make. Time and technological unfamiliarity constraints meant that trying to make a game was high-risk, and would likely result in an unfinished product. And creating something that could be done much more efficiently in 2D, with less user frustration, was cut as well. For example, making an architecutre cutaway viewer of the Great Pyramids - neat, but do users really want to stand up and move around, while trying to keep the AR marker visible, to learn about architecture?

But there are some really fun and rewarding interactions that are only possible through 3D and augmented reality. What makes a sculpture different than a painting? Being unable to see all of it at once. The Doodle AR project creates a complex, animated fair on the user’s table, forcing the user to move around the space to see the whole picture. To play on this while bringing back the heart of a Google Doodle, the Google letters were hidden inside the scene as 3D objects. The viewer is invited to play by finding them all.

This project makes validated use of an AR experience because that game element would just not be the same in 2D or non-augmented reality. And since there are no additional on-screen interactions, the experience is kept clean and light, unlikely to bog down the average consumer's device.

The Doodle AR project was accomplished with the teamwork of Lucas Di Monte and Aaron Campbell, fellow students in Interaction Design.

Doodle AR ticket mock-up
An e hiding in a Big Top
A g hiding on the carousel

Role

I played a major role in conceptualization and was responsible for art direction and building the 3D model. The model was planned in traditional paper sketches and built in Cinema 4D. Close work was done with the developer as decisions were made on the best ways to bring the model to life using THREE.js and AR.js frameworks.

Sketches of the Ferris Wheel