Key rules for a good 3D / AR solution on mobile

The Railway Museum in Bragança, will have an Augmented Reality solution, which will allow you to see the old Tua line in a model format – the classic train route that goes from Bragança to Tua.

During the visit to the Museum, you will find this playful animation inside the X-Plora app that will guide you throughout the venue.

Via your own mobile phone’s camera mode display, this 3D animation will appear in front of you, hovering in the air, allowing you to observe the Tua valley from every angle, including part of its surroundings and, of course, the ancient train route, which is disabled nowadays.

At the end of this article, we present a video where you can see the silhouette of this route, with all the stages of that route properly
identified in animation. It’s still a work-in-progress.

Being a solution that will allow users to interact from the mobile phone, given its specifications, there are a series of
rules and techniques that we need to take into account while planning and developing the solution.

Augmented reality at the Bragança Railway Museum:
We soon came to the conclusion it would be impossible to model the entire environment between Bragança and Tua. This is due to the entire route’s large dimension and the fact that it is meant to be seen on the mobile phone, where everything would appear very small and we would miss the important details.

The playful aspect and the assumed low poly style guarantee the performance and the mockup style, shortening the dimensions, but maintaining the silhouette of the railway path, it assumes a important role in appreciating the space between the beginning and the end of the model as well as the
accuracy faithful to the route.

Modeling:
This work begins with the modeling of the path, having been traced from the real map, taking advantage of this silhouette, it was given the importance of the river to follow part of this path, maintaining the ravines.

Another aspect that helps to give personality to this model are the high mountains that favor the valley. All of this is comprehended in two phases of modeling, being more detailed modeling at an early stage and then a reduction of it, while maintaining the format. This is useful for intended style and performance, making content lighter.

The final part of the modeling is the train, a more technical modeling that requires higher detail in less area. The process was the same, modeling with some detail and, at the end, reducing the polygons between the perception-distance relationship between the user and what is visible.

Texturing:
This is one of the most important processes, when talking about content for augmented reality. We are talking about a process that works in real time. This type of reading and calculation becomes demanding for devices, so it’s important to calculate part of this process, decreasing the amount of total calculations to be performed in time real.
In this way, textures should help to save polygons and help in the perception of elements, helping the 3D format.
Avoid modeling, when we can have the same result in textures.

Technical aspects:
● The idea is to make 3D as light as possible (low poly)
● Use textures to compensate for three-dimensionality and keep everything lighter
● Use the least number of separate objects and textures, saving on mobile phone’s processing.
● Ensure that 3D aesthetics and colors are in compliance
● Creative animations, with the right cadence and rules for software transition (maya to unity)

Always remember: the symbiosis between performance and aesthetics must be present for the best possible experience.

Miguel Figueiredo

X-Plora’s Senior Designer.

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