As part of their commitment to harnessing the educational potential of AR, Meta worked with UNIT9 to produce a series of interactive AR effects, collaborating with key partners including BBC Studios, The V&A, NASA and the Museum of Art & Photography Bangalore. Built in Meta Spark – Meta’s AR creator platform – the effects were to serve as part of a wider research initiative looking into the effectiveness of AR as a learning tool.
AR effects are predominantly associated with brand marketing campaigns rather than as a tool to aid learning. So we needed to think creatively in order to explore the use of AR within educational and cultural environments and come up with a series of innovative immersive learning solutions.
To kick off, we held interactive workshops with Meta and each Partner to explore the opportunities and use cases for AR within their organisation, as well as uncover what would appeal most to their specific audiences.
Following the workshops, we explored a number of AR concepts for each Partner, all with the goal of teaching their audiences about an object, artwork, or idea of interest. Five effects per partner were then commissioned for production over an 8-10 week period before being launched on Instagram and other Partner-owned channels, as well as the Meta Spark Hub.
For BBC Studios, we focussed on a series of effects centred around Natural History and the environment. From growing a Ginkgo tree and discovering its life cycle, to diving into the ocean to meet creatures of the deep and restore a coral reef, the BBC Studios effects used AR functionality to connect audiences with a variety of wildlife and ecosystems in a fun and engaging way.
For NASA, we built upon the space centre’s key endeavours and research fields. Users can learn about the mechanism of solar eclipses and how to stay safe while watching them; explore the asteroid Bennu and the OSIRIS-REx satellite that discovered and scanned its surface; and delve into the upcoming Artemis II lunar mission – which will see the first woman and man of colour land on the moon – from the viva voce of one of the Astronauts.
For the V&A, we created a varied set of effects that explored different curatorial departments within the museum’s collections. Users can access a range of AR experiences, allowing them to discover a miniature replica of Bettiscombe Dolls’ House, mix-and-match traditional English dresses to get ready for a catwalk within the V&A Raphael room, and transform into famous theatrical and movie characters such as Cleopatra and Elphaba from Wicked.
For the Museum of Art & Photography Bangalore, we explored how art could be brought to life through AR. Users are able to help complete paintings by adding brushstrokes, assemble a tapestry via a jigsaw puzzle, and go behind-the-scenes at an Indian Shadow Puppet show to see how the artform takes shape.
We also explored a series of effects specifically for Meta – from teaching users about the relationship between altitude and velocity when launching a Satellite into space, to transporting them to a Victorian highstreet to learn about life in the 1800s.
Within each workstream, we collaborated with StoryFutures to trial the AR effects amongst focus groups of 20-30 participants in order to achieve maximum engagement. These sessions allowed us to test ideas including different UX flows and approaches to providing information (such as the effectiveness of voiceover vs text) as well as gauge the impact of newer, more experimental Meta Spark features such as hand-tracking and real-world scaling.
In the next phase of the initiative, all AR concepts will be tested with larger audience groups to compare their educational value against flat media formats such as video. We look forward to sharing the results of this research later in 2023.
With a thorough ideation, development and testing process and close collaboration with Meta, BBC Studios, The V&A, NASA and the Museum of Art & Photography Bangalore, we were able to create a series of educational AR effects that audiences could truly connect with. It was incredible to push the boundaries of AR to lengths we haven’t seen before, creating full-blown immersive educational experiences – all accessible from a phone screen.