To create compelling augmented reality project, you have to understand how the technology works and how to combine real-life environments with digital layers seamlessly.
Before you read the details and specifications, here is a brief overlook of what you’ll need to create your own augmented reality experience:
- a static trigger image (aka AR marker)
- digital content such as video or 3D object to feature on top of the chosen picture
- a software for combining the two pieces of content
- a mobile device with a compatible application to scan the marker and retrieve the AR content.
It doesn’t matter if you are yet to create the content or have some stuff that already exists, and you’d like to combine. Below I’ll talk you through specifications and best transition options for both scenarios.
Getting the AR content straight
First things first, what makes an excellent augmented reality marker?
- An AR marker must be a photo you have specially created for your project. You have to make sure that the image is unique. Choose your own design, a photo you have taken, or something from your business’ library that no one else could easily access online. Using stock photos or Google images is not a good idea as someone else could be already using the same picture or will do so at a later stage and because of that it can show different content on the same marker. In short, you don’t have ownership of this content.
- For the computer vision to detect the marker, use as many graphical elements and contrasts in your trigger photo as possible. Your marker image is not a thing to be a minimalist about. The image recognition system thrives on different shapes, shadows, etc.
Good AR marker examples
Below you see a couple of markers, which you can scan using the Overly app on your phone. Both of these images represent good examples. Although you’ll find Ed Sheeran all over the internet, a designer has created a specific design that features the star but is entirely unique for the event it is promoting.
This image represents a typical marker for personal use projects. It is not edited, but it is unique to a family, this could be a canvas, a framed picture or an album cover. It is clear and detailed.
Bad AR marker examples
Markers that contain too much text can cause instability when AR content is displayed on top of it. If you want to bring a mostly text page alive, we advise using the area, which features a graphic element as the marker. The below example is an excerpt from the Vidzeme University of Applied Sciences’ prospectus. The right side of the page would not work as a marker, but we could definitely use the image on the left effectively. This approach is often used by magazines and newspapers when concrete pictures or objects are brought to life within a text page.
You should also avoid using graphic elements repeatedly and making the marker look the same from all angles. For example, chess boards, make an excellent case for bad markers. All squares in the image look the same even when the angle of the image is changed, which may cause readability and stability problems.
Below is a pretty cool minimalist ad, but it has way too much blank space. In terms of augmented reality potential, this could be rated with 1 star from 10 and it definitely will not be working. Such vast empty areas may confuse image recognition technology, affect the marker’s readability and stability.
Say no to blurred images! As cool as these may look, the computer vision doesn’t understand blurred lines, and such images are virtually impossible to be read by image recognition systems.
Last but not least, you have to bear in mind where your marker is going to end up. Even if it looks great on your computer, you need to ensure that it works when printed. A couple of pointers here:
- choose matte finish as glossy photos due to their reflection with light may be hard to read
- AR markers are challenging to use for rounded objects such as cans or bottle labels, consider creating a bottle tag instead to ensure AR content looks good. Tho bottles can work, but usually it takes knowledge to create such things.
Environment considerations for marker-based augmented reality experiences
Even if you pick the perfect marker by design, there are still some other pointers that are key to the success of your campaign. AR marker placement will be detrimental as the same trigger photo may not work at a bus stop as it does on a building facade or a small flayer.
50% rule for computer vision
Wherever your augmented reality marker is placed, consider that when people scan it with their mobile device, it must take up at least 50% of their camera screen — no less.
So if you’re running an outdoor campaign, you have to consider how high up your banner is going to be. The higher it is, the bigger it has to be. If you’re placing a marker on an A4 poster, consider how close people are going to be able to get to it, because for A4 one meter probably is optimal.
If you go for a big banner ad, you must ensure that the space for the AR content to be retrieved, isn’t limited. Consider that people need to be able to get the trigger photo within their camera screen. So if it is on a larger size, you should make sure that the environment surrounding it is vast enough for people to step back and scan the marker.
If you place a large-scale ad on a busy junction, it may not be the best idea to add AR to it, because there may not be an appropriate space for people to stand to scan it or step back to get the image within their screen.
Outdoor AR markers are weather dependent
While an outdoor ad that has been lit up will work for you 24/7, its AR functionality will not deliver the scans in all weather conditions. One of the challenges is night time, and if your AR trigger photo is consumed by night, you won’t be able to see it nor scan it.
Another point to consider when placing a marker outdoors is sunlight or shade. Both of these can affect if computer vision is capable of detecting your poster. Therefore, avoid placing AR markers on banners where there are drastic sunlight and shadow changes throughout the day.
What are the marker specifications for the Overly app?
Above are vital considerations for choosing the marker image, but to ensure it works on the Overly app online platform, it also has to meet certain specifications. If you decide to print your marker, ensure the image is high enough quality to be printed in your desired size.
The Overly app requires the markers to be high-resolution .jpg or .png pictures. RGB or Grayscale. Up to 2MB. 8 or 24 bit and without transparency.
What digital content can you add to an augmented reality marker?
The AR content you choose to display on top of your trigger image may be *.mp4 video or 3D object, and the specification varies for both as outlined below.
Video: H.264 Baseline Profile Level 3.0 video, up to 1920 x 1080 at 30 fps. MP4 Part 2 video (Simple Profile), 30fps, Bitrate Max 5mb/s
3D: Up to 65 000 polygons. FBX file. All objects should be combined in one object. Max file size 15mb. Less is better.
How to ensure your video is the best match for your marker?
In an ideal scenario, all AR projects would start with the end in mind, and both the marker and interactive content would be created for the sole purpose. However, often, both pieces of material have been created way before the AR project and are combined later. Both options work, but you have to be aware of how either situation may affect the final result. Here are examples of how different choices will pan out to look for videos specifically.
1.You create the image and the video material simultaneously, anticipating the final design and initially adapting the video format to the expected image format. In this example, the headlines on the cover are placed on top of the video, achieving the impression of the model coming to life. The AR video is the same size as the marker image, which makes the experience more realistic.
2.You create the marker photo and video separately and decide to combine them smoothly. While the standard video is 16:9 in such cases, a smooth animation can be used to ensure a visually nice transition from the marker photo to the AR content. In this example, video software was used to create an animation to join the two pieces of content.
3.You create a video and it doesn’t overlay the marker perfectly. In this example, two content pieces are combined, although the widths and heights are not matching. This augmented reality project still looks effective, but this solution has to be carefully considered on an individual case basis.
How can you test, how the video may look on your AR marker?
Video or 3D element is placed on the marker according to a simple principle – AR content on top of the image.
If the image and video are the same size, the footage will overlap the entire picture. They may also not match, as in the previous example, and various animations may be added to make the transition more effective.
You can test if the content will match even before uploading it to the AR creation platform you are using. Open the image and video on your computer and place the video window above the image.
Combining the AR content with a marker in 5 steps
When you’ve gone through and evaluated all of the above, and created the content, you can combine the pieces. For this, you need to explore your options in terms of platforms that provide AR services. There are a few such platforms on the market, including the Overly app. Evaluate what is best for your budget, which one you prefer to use. You can look at the pricing plans for the Overly app here.
The platform you choose will most probably be web-based and require registration but once it is done, the steps should be similar for all.
- You’ll upload your static design (trigger image) that you want to bring to life
- You’ll then be asked to upload the content (please note that it depends on the platform, what type of content can be uploaded)
- You will have to choose the content size and its location in respect to the marker, add any CTAs if possible
- Preview the look on web and press publish
- In a few seconds, the system will be updated, and you can take your mobile phone to test the marker and share it with your audience.