Last week at Mobile World Congress 2019, Google put an augmented reality twist on its annual Android Partner Walk via its ARCore toolkit.
For the uninitiated, the Android Partner Walk is a scavenger hunt for collector's pins hidden through the MWC's exhibition halls. The game doubles as a means to encourage attendees to visit all of Google's various Android partners, such as Samsung, Qualcomm, LG, and Lenovo, since the pins are hidden in the vicinity of their booths.
This year, instead of giving away physical pins, Google challenged attendees with ARCore-compatible devices to use the Android Partner Walk to find and scan QR codes placed throughout the event space. Those who collected all of the virtual pins were eligible for a chance to win a prize at the Android Avenue Info Kiosk.
"Android Partner Walk is always a fun staple for MWC attendees, but this year we decided to throw some AR into the mix. So you can collect virtual Android pins simply by opening the camera and following the clues," said Aparna Chennapragada, Google's vice president of Google Lens and AR, in a tweet.
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Upon scanning the code with the app, players were able to unlock animated AR scenes with unique Android characters and then save the experience to their passbook. Attendees could also capture photos of the characters for sharing via other apps.
"It was awesome to see MWC attendees' smiles and surprise when collecting their AR Android pins. These were people in business suits, roaming the show floor between meetings, engaged with a collection experience where they were willing to walk long distances to complete the challenge," wrote Joshua To, design director, and Steve Toh, designer, of Google's AR/VR team, in a blog post. "We put a lot of care in developing the 21 fully-animated 3D scenes and were glad people enjoyed them."
The app also served the role of AR navigator, pointing players in the direction of the next pin (though a 2D guide book also gave users a traditional map to all of the AR pins).
"As we thought about the AR companion to that experience, the problem became clear: How do we point the person to the next partner booth? This question is one that AR is uniquely equipped to solve," wrote To and Toh.
"We took some lessons from Google Maps to help us design the scavenger hunt's AR elements. We made each floor decal unique; scanning one would tell users where they are in the Android Partner Walk, and enable us to point them to uncollected pins nearby."
Those who were not able to attend MWC can experience the AR collectibles for themselves, as the app is still available to download on ARCore-compatible devices with all of the collectibles unlocked for viewing.
The app also serves as a showcase for ARCore, particularly its surface detection abilities and the newer Augmented Images feature, an image recognition protocol that can turn 2D images into 3D virtual experiences. Additionally, the app demonstrates ARCore Elements, Android's new standardized visual language for AR user interfaces.
Moreover, the app offers a case study for using AR to engage various audiences working toward a similar objective. Here, Google aims to show off what its partners are doing with Android. Elsewhere, Niantic has shown municipalities how they can use location-based games like Pokémon GO to support community engagement.
The moral of the story is that it's not enough to have AR technology in an app; app developers also need to give users a reason to use the apps.
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