Much of the exciting nature of escape rooms is their allowance for team bonding and solving a problem together interactively in the same room; however, health concerns related to the pandemic have greatly restricted escape room operations in real life.
In addition, we noticed that the pandemic forced many companies to cancel team-building events, which were crucial to team morale and work productivity. As companies become more hybrid, offering new remote positions that allowed employees to work from anywhere, we wished to help connect employees by offering companies a fun option for team-building events, all while following pandemic restrictions.
So, we decided to create EscapAR.
What is EscapAR
EscapAR allows family, friends, and colleagues to visit a variety of escape rooms without leaving the comfort of their homes, letting them play with each other despite distance constraints. It preserves the excitement of a classic escape room while taking this one step above: allowing players to access the game immersively through AR.
Just like a classic escape room game, players are challenged to think out of the box and solve different challenges, advancing into new rooms as they progress.
On the other hand, EscapAR offers many advantages that a traditional in-person escape room game would lack:
Removal of room constraints. Since AR worlds can be generated at the discretion of the developer, rent and space constraints are automatically removed. This also allows escape rooms to take any shape or form, permitting creativity and the innovation of new eye-catching game designs.
Reduction of long waiting times. In an in-person escape room game, rooms need to be reset after every game. The AR nature allows rooms to be reset automatically with zero wait time.
How We Built It
echo3D and Unity
echo3D’s Content management system (CMS), which is critical for EscapAR’s development workflow:
- Provides exceptional support and integration with Unity
- Shares assets and models with others
- Break down the visuals of our application
- EscapAR can get models for the escape rooms from self-made Blender models, echo3D existing models, third-party assets, and scanning IRL
- echo3D’s Search API and integration with 3rd party search engines allowed us to easily find such models
Leveraging GCP’s scalable computing, we are able to host our API backend and database on secure storage and hosting. Using Docker, we have containerized our server application components which could be deployed on other Google Cloud products like the managed Kubernetes’ service (GKS).
CockroachDB provides us with distributed SQL which offers the benefits of SQL such as strong data consistency and high-throughput performance. CockroachDB's distributed architecture also offers the redundancy and performance needed to serve our users’ demanding needs (such as for asset and progress loading).
Challenges We Ran Into
Although we are glad many things went smoothly, there were a number of challenges we faced while working on EscapAR. Here are some notable ones!
- Working with echo3D. Since none of our team members had worked with echo3D previously, we experienced a slight learning curve in our project. We found difficulties with the default credit usage limitations of 10 since we were unable to upload more models, despite being on the premium plan. After making another account, we explored more of the features of the platform and successfully modified default settings to our needs.
- Github version control. Our team’s code base broke down during some merge conflicts. This part was extremely time-consuming to resolve as we had to manually resolve each conflict.
Accomplishments we’re proud of
We are incredibly proud of bringing this classic game into augmented reality and of all the progress our team has made! We were especially happy to be able to incorporate all the technologies and for creating such a fun project!
Notably, we were able to leverage echo3D and Unity to quickly bring our application from ideation to creation. We were also able to rapidly prototype a REST API and provisioning
What’s Next? Our plans post-hackathon!
- Expanding EscapAR’s collection of available escape rooms! Using the innovative capabilities of echo3D, we will be able to easily scale and release new rooms and challenges in EscapAR.
- Currently, EscapAR has the best support for Android devices but we are excited about bringing it to iOS through Unity’s cross-platform support.
- Another interesting idea we had was to incorporate cryptocurrency into our virtual world, where users are able to earn and spend cryptocurrency through EscapAR!