For years the conversation about augmented reality centered on how there are some great practical applications for AR, but that the tools to easily build and incorporate those experiences were lacking. After discussing this yet again with a colleague recently, I lost my entire Saturday morning to investigating that argument.
As a Digital Marketing Agency, we are focused on being Technology Agnostic, which means we deliver digital solutions to our client partners that can be implemented across any platform and any system. In theory, this is mindset prevents any limiting factors from working their way into the decision-making process of how to creatively solve problems and deliver value. In practice, however, the job can be incredibly difficult. It’s often stressful to maintain a high level of engagement on what’s new in the Technology Landscape, but it’s what drives me.
I’ve subscribed to more newsletters than I know what to do with, I always have a watchful eye on Reddit, I’ve crafted customized news pages, feeds – the list keeps going. But there’s absolutely no dismissing that most of the greatest information that I have found was due to the “Next Article” or “Next Video” or “You might also like…” – and this story is no different.
I happened upon an article from last summer explaining the inclusion of Pixar’s Universal Scene Description (USD) format into MacOS and iOS. So I dug a little deeper and downloaded the USD toolset, updated my Creative Cloud, downloaded Adobe Dimension, and got to work utilizing this new toolset.
My curiosity was piqued when I learned that there was a claim that Augmented Reality is now achievable on the web. All you had to do was simply put it in a particular format. Its inclusion into iOS meant that I could upload a 3D model to a web server, specify the magic code (2 lines) and voila, I could immerse myself in an AR experience. Better yet, I could include this ability on our next client project. Prior to web-based AR, including augmented reality into your end user’s experiences required a special skill set and a standalone app.
The USD toolset is a set of Python scripts that can convert 3D models from many popular formats (GLTF, GLB, and OBJ). This largely means that you’ll have to dip down to a Terminal (aka Command-Line) in order to convert the 3D model to the USDZ format, but have no fear, there are many web resources to guide you through working with the tools.
Within minutes I was able to create a rendering of an aluminum can with the DEFINITION 6 logo, and with very little effort I had a 3D Model created in Adobe Dimension (even if this isn’t your favored too, there are plenty of other 3D tools available). Once the model was created and exported into a recognizable format, I was able to run a couple of the tools and generate the USDZ file, which is the archive format created by Pixar, which is native to iOS now. I then created a small HTML5 Boilerplate file and dropped in my magical 2 lines of code:
<a href=”model/3d-aluminum-can-logos.usdz” rel=”ar”>
<img src=”img/3d-aluminum-can-logos.png” >
The only thing that should really be noticeable about the code is the rel=”ar”. That’s the bit that launches the native iOS ARKit and that’s the bit that lets me know AR has arrived and is front and center.
When this metadata is available, iOS will place an actionable icon next to your enclosed image. That icon will then render your 3D model and allow for a viewing of the object, or allow you to utilize the AR Capability. Once you click on AR within the interface, the camera will open and you will be able to place and interact with your 3D model.
And that’s it… adding Augmented Reality to your website is just a matter of hours (more or less). The tools are finally in such a state that practically anyone can add Augmented Reality features to their mobile sites. 3D Models are now easier than ever to generate, and we finally have some native formats that are easily incorporated into simple web interfaces.
While this is still a new development, it will allow explosive growth for the AR reality field. Who knows, in a year or so AR technology might be just as standard as a social media plan. I, for one, can’t wait.