Approach and Solution
When our team started work on this project, it was clear that digitally replicating the interior function of a massive piece of machinery like the heater would be no small feat. We had to take it a step further and make the whole experience immersive, so users see what is happening inside the device without being exposed to any danger.
Thus, we carefully examined how the machine looks and works based on the physical model and other technical specifications provided to us. This helped us understand and plan how to bring the concept to fruition in AR. One of the first things we tackled was the “first scan” part of the experience. To begin their interaction with the machine, a user has to scan a pre-programmed marker with the app, making use of their device’s camera.
We solved the tracking issue by creating a special printout that must be attached on the right side of the heater at a very specific spot. When the user scans this marker, the app understands exactly where the user is standing and all their next movements are reflected on the digital model they see in the app.
Naturally, a lot of work went into creating the 3D model of the heater and all of its interior animations. As soon as the app recognizes the marker, it plays the sounds of a working heater and visualizes the interior of the machine. The user then sees fluid make its way through the system and get warmed up with high physical and acoustic accuracy.
We understood that there might be some minor discrepancies between where the app thinks the user is standing and where it really stands, so we added calibration features to offset any mismatched tilts.
The total project duration was 2 months (approximately 300 hours of work) and involved a team of 1 developer, 1 QA engineer, and one 3D artist working together. Most of the app functionality and logic was developed in Unity, though AR features prompted the use of another tool – Vuforia.
Most of the art assets and UI were created in Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator. The platforms selected for deployment were iOS (iPad Pro + iPhone X) and Android (Samsung Galaxy Tab S6 + Galaxy S10).
- A valuable tool was added to professional training. The immersive and location-focused nature of the application makes it infinitely more relevant and useful than any standard guide or lecture.
- A complex process was made more understandable to workers. Operators, engineers, and other specialists who work with the heater can see how the machinery works up close without any danger.
- The company gained a great element for presentation. The replica heater is already a great tool for presentations and promotions, but the supplemental application makes the experience of peeking inside even more fun and spectacular to visitors and stakeholders.