We are seeing crisis situations that need emergency bases all around us, but we also have temporary cities like festival cities such as coachella/burning man/etc. You can also see temporary bases in the form of pop-up shops, fresh food markets, and temporary hospitals. Temporary bases are becoming more and more frequent.

The modularity of these bases begs the question: how do we organize navigation? We cannot use regular navigation maps, they are not made for that. A navigation app does not know where your temporarily placed toilets or emergency room is!

So what could we do? **Well the sky is the limit.... and that brings me to aerial maps! Let's use the sky to draw maps where people can look up to to understand their environment better :). **

How it works

Simply download the project files and open directionfbhackV2.arproj in Spark AR Studio.

Please keep in mind that Spark AR recognizes flat surfaces, so it may be cut off in case there is a wall. Depending on whether you want to use it indoors or outdoors, you may want to adjust the values in the multiply patch in the comment box "Scale real world reference object" up or down, in order to make the effect scale more extremely or less extremely. The effect is now setup to work fine in an open-air environment.

You can print the AR Sign.png to test it out at home, or use it without and focus on an imaginary point in the sky ;). Pinch to zoom in or out, and then tap to reveal the aerial map. In this example, I created an aerial map for an "emergency hospital" which may not have clear signs as to what can be found where. The pointers point to an emergency room, pharmacy, and waiting room.

There is an extra effect included to animate the arrows, this needs to be enabled in the patch for those that like that, I prefer them unanimated.

What is it for

There are various situations where one could be in a large crowded area, or a large area without clear signs, that may require some direction. Examples could be:

  • Emergency bases
  • Festivals (where are the toilets?!? where are the bars?!?)
  • Temporary bases
  • Bases that may change in organization (e.g. moving one block somewhere else). etc.
  • This application of augmented reality is built on a couple of basic principles:

There will be something identifiable that everyone can see. For example, the top of a church, a logo, a mountain, a house, a cross drawn somewhere, or maybe the printed AR sign from this repository. You can create any point of reference you like.

The user is asked to find this point of reference, and focus the reference point of the AR effect on it and scale it accordingly. The scaling will help place the effect at the right location for the person to see. When done, the user taps, and the aerial map reveals itself. This aerial map is easy to adjust based on the circumstances. For example, let's say the emergency room is placed at the north of the base, but is then moved to the south, you can simply adjust that in this effect and push it online for everyone to use the adjusted effect. It eliminates the need for creating temporary direction signs for temporary bases.

Additionally, this effect can be expanded in various ways. E.g. contextual information could be provided in the effect, in this example of an emergency hospital... perhaps the number of patients in the emergency room and available beds, the number of patients waiting in the waiting room, and whether the pharmacy has received new supplies. For a more fun example, imagine a festival, the festival could give some contextual information about happy hours, special performances at special stages, location of toilets, or other nice ideas.

An aerial map is useful for many situations that cannot be handled with a regular navigational map, it is therefore not intended to replace a navigational map. It is intended to give local, temporary, directional and contextual information when it is needed on temporary/short-term bases.

How I built it

I used blender to create the 3d objects, and I used Spark AR Studio for everything else.

Challenges I ran into

Figuring out a way to display an aerial map from the right perspective wherever you are or stand.

Accomplishments that I'm proud of

Building my first augmented reality app!

What I learned

This is my first augmented reality app, so I learned a lot about how to create an augmented reality effect from scratch. I also learned a lot about how computers perceive distance via software such as Spark AR and how this is different for human users. Furthermore, I also needed a solution that makes it useable for users from a variety of angles and distances, and figuring out a user-friendly way of doing that with the tools provided was a nice learning experience as well.

I think one of the main things that I would pass on to other developers that want to create a world effect, is to realize there are two main spaces you can use: the world (obviously) and a static image on the camera lens so to say like I did to zoom in and out on a point of reference

What's next for Aerial Map

I would like to create an easy interface that allows people to drag and drop items to create a map and set a reference point they would like, and easily export a ready-made Spark AR Studio effect ;). Also the positioning may need a bit of refining. It seems to be the case that the effect sometimes thinks there is a wall when there is not.

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