In 2010, we started to experiment with Augmented Reality (AR) concepts as part of our exploration of technologies, but it was only when we looked at the combination of AR, QR (Quick Response) Codes and parallax 3D that we began to form the model of onvert.
As designers, we wanted to make AR as accessible, powerful and inspiring as possible - to make it an extension of creativity rather than a boundary.
"20 years ago I started designing websites because I could see the potential for communication and commerce - something we all take for granted these days. Augmented Reality is the first technology I have seen since then, which has convinced me we are at the dawning of a new era in technology."Jason Higgins, Harmony Managing Director
Onvert is a combination of a custom web portal and a freely distributed app.
It allows designers to overlay virtual content (with or without sound) on any trigger image of choice.
Anyone can create a 3D virtual projection with up to 30 seconds of accompanying sound. The content is compressed on upload to optimise downloads to a phone over a 3G connection, allowing it to be as fast as loading an average web page.
The QR codes can be read by any standard QR reader and, conversely, the onvert viewer can interpret standard QR codes to guide users to the client website. Only the onvert app, however, can project the designer's 3D content.
We assessed several options to achieve the high level of functionality required of the system, but it became obvious that the Metaio Mobile SDK was the only real solution for us.
We were able to co-ordinate the development of the app to fit in with the new release in January 2012, to positive feedback.
"Partnering with Metaio is part of the dedication and refocusing of our services to embrace the opportunities of AR and its ability to provide clients with new and exciting commercial possibilities."
The application grew from a proof of concept, into full Android development. As we developed this, Metaio were still developing their new release which presented challenges of working with technology not even released to the public. This also meant we met handset limitations during development, but the fortunate aspect is that with each month smartphones progress, best proved by the iPhone 4S which handles onvert effortlessly.
iOS development soon followed in tandem which required careful negotiation and communication between teams to ensure all relevant artwork, services and functionality were developed, tested and refined.
Designing for multiple devices presented challenges of maintaining and developing a UI that felt uniform, as well as native to each device, at many resolutions, while continually road-testing through client demonstrations.
At the very beginning onvert was known as nonvert - meaning "not an advert".
We went as far as submitting trademarks for the name in the UK with applications pending in the US, Ireland and Australia. On the decision to change the official name to onvert, we submitted UK and international trademarks for onvert too.
Along with our own intellectual property protection, onvert's creation brought forward legal considerations about content moderation. We created a procedure for dealing with complaints or issues of third party intellectual property use.
Onvert's potential to grow swiftly prompted us to engage with distributed data hosting in the cloud, allowing us to scale hosting to best accommodate for spikes in demand. To account for future development by Harmony or third parties, onvert has its own API.
The website's user interface has been revised following extensive user testing with designers and non-designers, and makes use of the latest CSS3, HTML5 and webGL methods.
Marketing for onvert has included experimentations with social media, press coverage and several videos filmed in the UK, US and further afield are in production to demonstrate the wide variety of uses of onvert.
During Spring 2012, we ran a competition for the most innovative use of onvert - where the winner and runners up will shared a cash prize of $2500.
We are now working on expanding our platform, which will include enhanced content and increased object recognition, making the most of the latest SDK to expand the user experience even further.
Version 2 of the onvert system includes new items to present to an application user, statistics and increased interactivity.