Inspiration

This project was inspired by personal research into historic Black Communities Christina started during the pandemic. She was also thinking about the lack of representation in the tech space for Black and Indigenous Communities viewed through the lens of her own experience in her home city of Detroit. The title, Step by Step, can be taken literally. That's how change happens. Step by Step.

What it does

Step by Step is a mobile site specific museum experience. When users open the app at a location, they will see an augmented reality overlay that shows the historic community as it was. They will meet an animated avatar based on a real person from that place and time. The avatar will tell a story from their life and offer the user an opportunity to purchase an NFT collectible that relates specifically to the place, time and character.

How we built it

Process: Christina and Carol began by establishing a storyboard for the historical Black owned boutique and Indigenous site narratives. Christina did local research to establish a basis in fact. Using ARitize as inspiration for a site specific AR experience, we opted to extend existing capabilities to include a new map screen with available experiences shown as pins. Christina prototyped the UI addons for ARitize, while Carol sourced music, researched prototyping solutions, and did detailed documentation. After iterating on a few NFT integration methods, Vasu consulted with Ted from SnapChat, and David Pineda to create a gesture based UI in Snap Lens Studio, utilizing hand tracking and collision distance tracking with scene objects (NFT images). Next, Vasu placed assets created by Christina into Lens Studio within a World Object Controller. This allowed for a portal into the past to be "stuck" onto the physical wall in place. From there, subtitles with an avatar were exported as a GIF from AfterEffects and placed into the Lens Studio scene. Finally, UI panels created in Illustrator were placed within the scene. JavaScript modules were added to create an effective interface in which the user places their hand over floating UI components to explore the narrative, browse NFTs, and purchase them. The final product was exported into SnapChat on iPhone and recorded.

Challenges we ran into

Hackathons are at least as much about team building and interpersonal relationships as they are about using tools to create projects, whatever those tools and projects end up being. When there's a lot to do in a short time, new people to meet and complex ideas to sort out, quick decisions can get made that end up taking a lot of time and energy to work through. Coming up with ideas on Wednesday night was one thing. Pinning them down into actual projects in the cold light of Thursday morning was something else entirely. Several concepts that seemed to have kinship got braided together. Precious development time got used on figuring out that they needed to be unbraided to move forward. There's a certain amount of learning as you go inherent in the Hackathon process as well. So no matter what knowledge team members bring to the table, there's going to be a learning curve somewhere along the way.

Accomplishments that we're proud of

We will have the app prototyped with basic functionality. We've stayed true to our original vision and produced a good clear representation of that. The aesthetic is there. The story is there. You can see where we're going with it. NFTs will be minted!

What we learned

We've learned how important it is to aim for Minimum Viable Product from the very beginning of the adventure. A project can always be More but there's a baseline below which it can't be Less and still be coherent. Be clear, be direct, be simple. Figure out what is and what isn't part of it. Excise the extraneous as quickly as possible. But be nice about it if other people's ideas are involved! Within that, especially in the context of this particular Hackathon, think about hardware and software needs going in.

What's next for Step by Step

The app has good scalability potential to include any marginalized community. The plan for content is to build a research based API just for the project. The opportunity for expansion is tremendous.

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