Over the past few years, we’ve tackled more dinosaurs than Jeff Goldblum. Our first augmented reality dinosaur project debuted in February of 2013 and since then we’ve continued to refine our thunder lizards. Last fall, we made our international premiere at the Taronga Zoo in Sydney, Australia, and we’re just getting started. Our augmented reality dinosaurs will be appearing at almost 20 zoos around the world this year!
Making Big Small
Our most recent exhibit, Dinosaurs in the Wild, at the Taronga Zoo, pairs our AR experience with life sized animatronic dinosaurs. Visitors take in the spectacle of the massive recreations before turning to their mobile device to see the dinosaurs in action.
The AR app uses geolocating to identify where users are and shows them content relevant to their location, in this case, dinosaurs doing cool stuff like running, eating and hunting. The models are meticulously rigged to show off not only big actions, but subtle touches like belly jiggles and muscle movements, as well as skin sail and tail motions.
The animations can be controlled and replayed by the user and are accompanied by deeper information about the creatures on display. Viewed dinosaurs are saved in the user’s collection and can be accessed anytime, even outside the park.
No Frog DNA Necessary
We built our dinosaur models from scratch in-house, carefully researching paleontological data to ensure that our dinos were as accurate as possible.
We started with smooth models and painstakingly added details like wrinkles, scales and eventually textures.
Despite our focus on accuracy, some details about our subjects are lost to the mists of time. This meant we were free to have a little fun with the color of the dinosaurs, though we didn’t go too crazy.
With our models complete, we sent them to our animation team for rigging. The rig functions as the model’s “skeleton” and allows us to give them realistic motions. Rigging and texturing were often done simultaneously by different artists.
Bones and makeup in place, the final stop for the dinosaurs was Unity 3D, where we programmed their real-time animations and made sure that they looked good no matter how users manipulated them.
Giving the Dinos a Home
It’s not enough to build beautiful models, we also had to design an attractive, intuitive app for them to live in. Our design team was tasked with designing an app that would be robust enough to work for several different venues, but simple enough for us to modify without too much effort, allowing us to customize the app for different exhibits.
In addition to the models, we included custom modules that future venues can utilize to fit their own needs. These include almanacs, quizzes and space to include venue maps and ticketing information.
The geolocating ability of the app also provides valuable information to venues about how users navigate their park and which exhibits they spend the most time at. It’s an added value to the venue and the users.
You can get a little preview of the app’s capabilities by downloading “DinosaurCo AR” from the App Store or Google Play. Simply scan the image below to see a dinosaur come to life.
Latest Related Projects
There’s plenty more to explore. If you want to embark on a project of your own, get in touch.