Introduction: CityCoaster - Build Your Own Augmented Reality Coaster for Your Business (TfCD)

A city under your cup! CityCoaster is a project born thinking about a product for Rotterdam the Hague Airport, which could express the identity of the city, entertaining the clients of the lounge area with augmented reality. In an environment such as the airport, most of the travellers spend time at the bar/restaurant area, ordering beverages before the flight, looking to relax before their flight. For this reason a simple coaster, or saucer might become the perfect means of communication and entertainment, giving the possibility for customers to visualize with their smartphones a detailed 3D model of the most iconic sights of the city. This could be a collectible item which could be part of the branding, and help with creating sense of place.

You can personalize your CityCoaster, making it suitable for your own company! Think about a symbol which could represent your own business, which your customers could interact with in the hall of your hotel, on the table of your bar or restaurant, in the waiting room of your company!

Step 1: Identify the Right Symbol for Your Business

The first step is to identify the right symbols for your business. In our case we wanted to communicate the identity of Rotterdam. For this reason we selected some iconic buildings from the city: Hotel New York for example. You will have to realize a 3D model of them, so be sure that they are not too complicated for your modelling skills or that you can retrieve them from internet.

It is important that they really express the feelings or the meaning you are looking for.

Step 2: Identify the Best Tracker Object for You

Decide which surface you want to use as a marker. The markers are the objects that, if scanned by the app downloaded on your smartphone, will make the 3D model appear in augmented reality. You have to decide the nature and dimension of them in order to create a model with the right dimension that suits the surface.

In our case we decided to make the coffee saucers by laser cutting and engraving 5 mm wood, but it can be a simple printed image as well. The point is that image markers are far nicer solutions than QR codes for the same purpose.

Step 3: Create Your Tracker

You have to design the graphics of the marker. In fact it is important that the marker has a graphic on it which the app can recognise. In our case we created illustrations recalling the buildings, with their names, the name of the city, and a short description of what the customer has to do to visualize the 3D model. The coaster is enough wide to make the instruction clearly visible also with the cup on it. If you don’t have knowledge about graphic you can always google for existing images, but pay attention to the copyright if you will use this project for commercial purposes. If you want to engrave on wood like us, usually the laser cutters work with plotter files (.PLT) exported from a vector image. To export from .pdf file from example, you can use CorelDraw. Pay attention to the correct unit you are in when exporting, based on your region (mm, inch).

You can also just print the image on paper or cardboard. It should also work if you choose a flat object with a graphic on it as a marker; you will just need to take a picture of it, that you will have to upload it to the AR software.

Step 4: Create the 3D Model!

Create your own 3D model! Think also about the textures which you will have to apply on it if you don’t want just a monochrome model. We used Inventor to create the 3D model, and applied the textures with Keyshot. In this example we are working with buildings, so we used Google Maps to understand the shape of the Hotel New York. It doesn’t have to be really precise, but since we retrieved the textures from Google Maps and Google Earth, it has been important to make a 3D model as more similar as possible to the one of Google Maps. For the textures of buildings you can take screenshot from Google Maps and then refine them using Photoshop.

As said before you can also look for 3D model already made on the internet, choosing the most suitable for your needs.

Step 5: Use the Website "Augment"

If you have followed the previous steps, now you have the 3D model and the marker ready. What we need at this point is a software for PC to upload our 3D model, and an app for smartphone which everybody can use. We chose to use the software called "Augment", which seems to be one of the best and easiest one to use. You have to sign up and if you have a company or a business you can contact the developers for an enterprise plan.

Once inside the website you have to upload your 3D model to the “All model” section. After that, you can upload an image of your marker to the section “All tracker”, and connecting it to the right 3D model. The website will automatically make the model public, so that everybody using the app, could visualize it.

Augment website:

Step 6: Download of the App "Augment"

Download the app to an Android/iOS smartphone, called “Augment”. By pressing the icon in the middle of the bottom toolbar “Scan” you will be able to test if everything works properly.

Now what you have to do is to make it clear to your customers, how this experience works. You can either use some very basic instructions on the marker as we did, or you can explain it in person, or you can prepare sort of an additional visual where you explain it.