The most challenging thing we had to address just to get started was actually aligning the lighter, fun (bordering frivolous) medium of FB/Insta AR filters with the task of addressing a more serious social good issue — something that inevitably requires a longer conversation and engagement beyond our 8 second attention span.

The topic we chose was climate change because it is inexorably intertwined with issues of social good as well. By 2060, our earth is projected to warm by 4 degrees Celcius. This has devastating effects across the planet, including rising sea levels and unstable, extreme weather patterns. However, not everyone will be directly or equally affected by climate change. Poorer communities will be disproportionately hurt. The only way to proceed is to not leave anyone behind.

But sometimes it’s hard to care about an issue that doesn’t affect one directly, so we took this opportunity to make a speculative vision of your surroundings if we continue on the path we are currently on. Making use of an often used digital feature, helps to make these topics feel more present in people’s day to day. We believe in the power of mere exposure. We’re inspired by the nonprofits and research institutes that work tirelessly in this area. We hope to amplify their voices.

The technical challenge we faced was trying to make the environment as real as possible to give urgency to the issue of rising sea levels. To tackle this challenge, we made sketches and storyboards of the underwater scene. None of us have previous experience with visual node-based authoring environments like SparkAR, or even much experience with 3D. It took downloading Blender for the first time, learning about materials, shaders, specular qualities, UV maps, inverse normals, and one unfortunate hour despairing over Quaternion math. We photoshopped assets, created movements with animation rigs, and added sound and bubble effect through Spark AR to create a multimodal immersive space. A sign with dynamic data and “call to action” message were put in the scene to encourage users to continue taking actions off-line after interacting with the AR experience.

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