Ross Wakefield, aka rosterizer tells us how he moved from retail design into the wonderful and exciting world of AR.
How did you get started creating AR experiences?
I started around 5 years ago, whilst I was working as head of design at shopworks, an international retail design agency. I saw a few examples of image triggered augmented reality at the London design festival one year which I found really intriguing. My brother Marc was also starting to experiment with AR using unity and we decided to pitch an AR experience to the National Portrait Gallery along with a retail interior design scheme for their bookshop which allowed the user to place any of the portraits from the gallery into picture frames displayed and sold there. We came second in the pitch which was disappointing but they were extremely impressed with the proposal, particularly the AR experience.
After that we pitched various AR experiences as part of the retail design services offered by shopworks. We successfully sold an AR and VR experience to Azerbaijans leading mobile telecoms supplier, Nar, as part of the design for their 2015 Bakutel exhibition stand. The company had recently rebranded and the exhibition stand represented the launch of this new brand which positioned Nar mobile stores (for which my team and I also designed as part of the same project) as a conceptual garden of happy conversation. The exhibition stand design very much followed suit with the retail design scheme which subtly referenced the garden concept through use of material pallet and form but also hard a raw and stark aesthetic. In order to bring the garden to life in a more obvious and vibrant way, we developed an AR experience which transformed the landmarks of the exhibition stand into garden landmarks such as logs, grass hills, topiary etc. which users could access via the mobile handsets and tablets displayed on the stand as part of the product range. We also developed a VR experience, again making use of the mobile handset and google cardboard headsets to take the user on a virtual balloon ride over the Nar garden and beyond onto a vast landscape of rolling hills, lakes, trees and wildlife.
The exhibition was a great success for Nar with the stand winning an award for most attractive and engaging stand that year.
Beyond that I continued to work with Marc developing various other AR experiences including the Shopworks 2017 Euroshop stand but always found it a hard sell to clients as a customer friendly user experience to the barrier of needing to download an app. That was until Facebook launched Spark AR studio which allowed users to launch AR experiences straight from the apps already installed on their phone and share these experiences with their friends, family and followers. I've since left shopworks and have been working as a freelance Spark AR developer for around 18 months working directly with brands and also with Nexus Studios on exciting large scale AR projects which I'm not allowed to talk about!
In early 2020 I'll be launching ARea creative which will aim to deliver experiential retail environments with integrated and fully contextualised AR. These will focus on presenting customers with accessible and frictionless AR experiences at key stages along their shopping journey, inspiring or incentivising customers to share their experience on social media to spread awareness and drive footfall to stores.
What are the challenges you face on a daily basis?
I think one challenge that is faced by the AR industry as a whole is discovery. Social AR has through Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat has done a great job of exposing AR to the masses through face filters and world effects. Discovery for these experiences is a relatively simple process through the app as they can be accessed anywhere, browsed in a library and shared via a link. Contextualised AR experienced which are anchored to real places, objects and images however represent a much bigger challenge as a user needs to be in the right place at the right time and be fully aware of what is required in order to access the experience. This requires a consideration beyond the experience itself and into the journey/environment of the user who encounters it. With image tracking now enabled the demand for these types of experience within branded environments is set to increase dramatically so it is now even more important to refine this journey in order to make it as frictionless and accessible as possible.
What excites you most about AR and the industry?
AR opens up so many possibilities for so many industries but for me given my background in built environments and retail design, I'm excited to see how AR affects the way we design spaces and architecture. I believe the most powerful AR experiences are those that are perfectly contextualised and anchored by the physical space surrounding them. AR enables the possibility of developing physical and digital spaces that are codependent and reactive to one another as well as the people occupying them which is an incredibly exciting prospect from an experiential design perspective.
What piece of work are you most proud of?
The previous project I mentioned for Nar mobile is something I'm incredibly proud of. Secondly, the 3 projects I've worked with Nexus studios on this year due to the sentiment behind them which aims to connect families separated by distance through AR storytelling but I'm unable to elaborate on that unfortunately. From a personal perspective I'm also very proud of my Face Invaders Instagram filter/game.