In this first blog in a series about Antarctic Heritage Trust’s exciting new Augmented Reality app, Krystal Paraone, Studio Manager at Staples VR, talks about the process of bringing this incredible piece of world-leading technology, to life.
The app contains two unique experiences. Users can examine and learn about conserved Antarctic 3D Artefacts, which were left behind in huts at Cape Adare by Carsten Borchgrevink’s 1898–1900 Expedition and Scott’s Northern Party Expedition; or use the My Explorer Journal, in conjunction with an activity booklet, to learn about the Antarctic and various aspects of historic and modern-day Antarctic exploration, through AR, 360° videos, and photo galleries.
Seeing the excitement on the faces of children as they engaged with the Antarctic Heritage Trust’s AR app at its official launch at a Christchurch school, was a highlight for Krystal Paraone of Staples VR, who programmed the entire app herself. “I’m thrilled with it how it has all come together and was absolutely stoked to see the kids really getting into it, loving it, and giving us their feedback.”
Using the Antarctic 3D Artefacts experience, the children were able to look through their smart device and see the six artefacts from Carsten Borchgrevink’s 1898–1900 British Antarctic Expedition and Scott’s Northern Party Expedition in lifelike 3D. They could rotate the item and lean in for a closer look, and even ‘place’ the items on the floor or a desk in front of them. “The children were so impressed by the realism, and how they were able to use the technology to pretend to put on the boots, or pick up the other artefacts,” says Krystal.
The children also experienced the My Explorer Journal part of the app, created by Staples VR in partnership with AHT, and Inspiring Explorer, Anzac Galatte, which uses AR technology to tell Anzac’s experience of the Antarctic from the 2020 Inspiring Explorers ExpeditionTM, shares interactive information about current and historic explorers, and encourages young people to explore.
Trust General Manager Operations and Communications, Francesca Eathorne, says Staples VR came up with the initial concept for combining both experiences into the AR app. “We already had the digital scans of the artefacts and when we started to explore how we could use Anzac’s AR content in an Explorer Journal, Staples VR CEO, Aliesha Staples and studio manager, Krystal Paraone came up with the idea of building one custom app for us. You can’t see these items anywhere except for at the huts at Cape Adare in Antarctica, so the ability for people to bring them into their own environment is incredible.”
Krystal says people are getting tired of downloading multiple apps to access content, so creating a dual-experience for AHT’s AR app was a logical, albeit technically challenging, solution.
“The main challenge for us was fitting the sheer size of content into one app, and reducing the size of the photogrammetry models of the artefacts, and videos in the My Explorer Journal, so they were as small as possible, without losing quality. We are thrilled with the crisp look and realism of the finished product, which you don’t often see in AR apps.”
Krystal says the experience Staples VR has built up over more than four years working with photogrammetry models, means they are a leader in this kind of technology. “We have developed strong methods around processing and optimisation, and how the images are placed and can be interacted with inside the app. This combined with the perfect photogrammetry capture of the artefacts we were provided with, has led to a product we are really proud of.”
She also worked closely with the Trust and Anzac on the development of the Explorer Journal. “It was great how Anzac brought his perspective of himself as an explorer to the project, and he had some really ambitious ideas. Our role in the partnership was to say, here is how these ideas will actually work.”
Krystal says initially receiving the content from AHT was another personal highlight of the project. “It was all such amazing content, which came in pieces which was great, as I was able to sit with it and absorb it myself first.”
While both experiences on the AR app are engaging for all ages, Krystal believes both the Antarctic 3D Artefacts and Explorer Journal aspects will encourage children in particular, in a fun and unique way to learn more about the Antarctic and become explorers in their own lives. “The Trust’s ethos is to inspire exploration, and I think the app shows kids that anything is possible. They could be like Anzac and become an explorer, or explore in other areas, maybe science, or technology. This content shows them that nothing is out of reach.”
How to access the app
The app is available to download for free from Google Play or the App Store.
The application is only available on surface tracking Augmented Reality compatible devices,
visit our store pages on your device to see if your device is compatible