Unity: Our drag n drop augmented reality engine

By on February 18, 2013

Now that we have a 3D model, we have to figure out a way to make her show up in augmented reality space, which usually means we need a video game engine. Normally, these things take a lot of time and experience to write (I think it took me about a year to write my first one when I was 16) but now there are a decent number of easy to use solutions. We settled on Unity 3D because it’s very artist friendly and has an active community.  What this means is that you can get your own video game up and running on your iPad very easily without knowing how to program. If you know some javascript, you can even write scripts for it. So Unity is the platform that allows us to interact with 3D objects. But, we still need a way for us to track our coaster with the 3D model.  Back in 2011, we would have had to roll our own. Writing your own computer vision algorithm (make the computer detect a specific image in a video and then determine it’s orientation in 3D space) is no small feat.

But, luckily, AR is a rapidly progressing area right now and there are a slew of libraries out there that do the heavy lifting for you. We scoured the internet and tried almost all of them but the one we recommend and settled on are Qualcomm’s Vuforia, metaio, & (our new favorite). Metaio & Pointcloud offer some pretty advanced (and really awesome) features that we’re going to discuss later, but for the Bud Light girl, we needed to track a coaster and Qualcomm is by far the fastest and most robust. Best of all, they have a Unity plugin! It’s scary empowering to think that in 3 simple steps (download Unity, download Qualcomm Unity plugin, and import our 3D model from earlier), we can create an iPad app like this:

Of course, the devil’s in the details and there are a lot of rough edges to smooth out before you can make something production ready, but never the less, it’s pretty impressive how quickly you can get to a “draft” quality version. Best of all, no intense programming. In some of our next discussions, we’ll be providing an end to end tutorial on how to create a simple Augmented Reality application for your iPhone using Unity and the SDK.



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