Year in review: augmented reality projects

Sam Ball of Lean Mean Fighting Machine and Tony Högqvist, creative director of Perfect Fools, Stockholm, assess six projects which utilise augmented reality….

The Hand From Above
Chris O’Shea

“Great art installation,” says Tony Högqvist about Chris O’Shea’s Hand From Above art project which sees city centre shoppers tickled, flicked and even picked up by a large hand. “Augmented reality can be much more than just a webcam and a 3d character brought to life,” he continues. “It’s hard to evaluate it from a marketing perspective, but sometimes just plain fun is enough. And the Monty Python und-ertones make it even better.”

“Any piece of work that manages to get the reserved British public to interact
and have fun has to be commended,” says Ball. “I also like the attempt to bring ar out into the real world. However, its movement is rather crude, and I suspect the creator is already thinking up more ingenious uses for the technology – I know I am.”


Lego Digital Box

Right at the beginning of this year, specialist ar company Metaio launched the point of sale Digital Box terminal for toy brand Lego, which featured a screen and a built-in camera. Hold a box of Lego in front of the camera and, on the screen, a 3d model of the box’s contents appears to sit on the box itself. The box can be tilted and rotated to get a look at the virtual Lego model from all angles.

“This idea is great,” says Ball. “Imagine a kid faced with the tough decision of what to spend his birthday money on – this could be the difference between choosing Lego over another toy.”

Högqvist agrees: “This idea would definitely gain sales. The strength is the fact that it’s an installation in store. To visualise a dream that close to purchase is brilliant.”


Total Immersion
AR specialist agency Total Immersion created this AR experience that works
when users hold a Pokemon trading card in front of their webcam. A 3d animated version of the Pokemon character pops up and sits on the card. If two different cards are held in front of the camera so that the virtual Pokemon characters face each other, they then do battle with each other.

“I love the interaction,” says Ball, “although this needs to work in the play­ground if it’s going to take off.” Högqvist thinks it could be interesting “to integrate this function­ality into a PC game”.



Several car manufacturers have utilised ar to allow potential customers to play with virtual models on screen. Download the software then print off a special graphic device (which can also, obviously, be printed in a brochure) and then hold it up in front of a webcam. Et voila, the car appears as if sitting on the paper/brochure with the symbol. Spin, tilt to have a better look. London-based digital agency Dare created an AR campaign for BMW Z4 which enabled users not simply to look at a virtual 3D model of a car on screen but to drive one around their desktop creating (virtual) colourful tyre marks in its wake – which mirrors the visuals of a recent tv spot for the the Z4.

While Ball of LMFM loved this campaign for the effort it takes to get the user to interact with it, Högqvist is more dismissive: “It’s a very complicated way of getting users to create a piece of user-generated content.”


Fanta Virtual Tennis
The Hyperfactory

Fanta Virtual Tennis, created by agency The Hyperfactory, saw the techno­logy applied to Nokia camera phones. To play the game, users print out a special page of symbols, download a special app and when the camera phone detects the special page, the page becomes a virtual tennis court. Two people can then play virtual tennis using their phones as a screen for the game and also as the virtual bats.

“A fun experiment, but what happened with the game experience?” wonders Högqvist. “Using your phone as a racket and a screen at the same time
is just not working.” Ball of LMFM has similar reser­vations: “No matter how
cool the technology is, the actual game looks rubbish.”

COLORS 76 Magazine

Colors magazine’s recent Teenagers issue, Colors 76 (and also Esquire’s current December 09 issue) contains coded, graphic markers throughout the issue that,  when held in front of readers’ webcams, trigger interactive, augmented reality experi­ences on their screens. Providing they’ve down­loaded the appropriate software, of course….

“I like the fact that they’re trying to bring flat content to life,” says Högqvist. “But at the same time you could just as easily put a url to the video/3d model underneath the article.”

“I don’t tend to read a magazine when I’m in front of my computer,” says Ball of this use of ar. “In its current incarnation this ar appli­cation wouldn’t get me to change my habits.”

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