Tonality Communications | Michelle Condenárová

Black Box: My Augmented Reality Project

14. October 2016 by Michelle Condenárová

First of all – Hi! My name is Michelle and before joining the design team at Tonality Communications a few months ago I was a Digital design student at the University of Tomáš Baťa (yeah, that’s the famous shoemaker guy!) in Zlín. It is the only atelier of its kind in the Czech Republic focusing mainly on graphic design, web design (GUI, UX and UI) and all kinds of electronic publishing.

Studying there was great but from my point of view the biggest benefit of this atelier was the freedom I was given, which allowed me to push my boundaries each time I had a new project, always try something new and never get bored.

Now what’s that Black box from the title, huh? Black box was my final thesis, or the “magnum opus of my studies”. It was my solution to a task I was given; “Creating an interactive textbook”. My first idea was making an educational website while staying in my digital/creative comfort zone. A month later I hated this idea, I was bored and couldn’t imagine working on this project any longer. As a result I told myself to do something new, something I know nothing about, step out of that comfort zone, learn – and there it was! – a book using one of the most promising technologies of today – augmented reality. Let’s not forget that this was before Pokémon Go launched which made AR the worldwide phenomenon it is now. It was a huge challenge! But once the idea was in my head, I just couldn’t stop thinking about it.

black box

We are living in the world where we often dematerialize books and buy them in their electronic form. But still, there is something about the real ones… What is it? I guess the ability not only to use our sight to read the lines from the screen, but you can also feel the material, weight of words and smell the ink and age. And the deal is, that if you enrich the book by using AR, you can move it to a whole different level and create an extremely contrasting, powerful combination of something as classical as a book and an AR app that just couldn’t be more digital and futuristic. And that’s exactly was what I was going for. So I decided to make a screen printed book all by myself using only handmade materials and wood, which was really fun.

On the other hand there was the second indispensable part – the app. And in this case, I didn’t want to use any existing one, such as Aurasma or Augment. By using Unity 3D (and SDK Vuforia) and xCode, all of which were software I had never seen before as a designer, I wanted to build my own iOS app from scratch, that would really work without any limitations. The best thing about these two parts was that I only had one month to get my work done and bring this idea to life. And so I turned into a caveman I didn’t see the sun for 30 days.


Anyways, because my book is in Czech language, you might not know exactly what it’s about, but it mainly focuses on astrophysics and space. Now you might think, that I am just another stupid hipster, space lover type, which there were times when I most probably was. You also might think that it’s boring, and there are already so many publications about the universe out there, but ask yourself for instance – what exactly is on the Voyager’s Golden record? It is the only proof of Mankind’s existence beyond the Solar system, so maybe we all should know it, don’t you think? Space was always a topic I wanted to know more about and this was the perfect time to really dive into it. I have read a lot of books, watched a lot of documentaries and made a selection of information which are truly important for our existence and you don’t even need to be a physicist to understand them, nothing too geeky.

The book itself looks very abstract, inspired by the appearance of scientific data and sci-fi UX design. If you don’t understand the language, you might notice the abstraction even more. But that was the purpose. One of the best tools for learning, is curiosity. And that was the thing I was trying to create. I wanted to make the reader curious enough, so he or she wants to see the hidden digital content, grab his or her smartphone, interact and take a look at the book through the app and finally hear all the sounds, see those animations and shiny 3D models. Ultimately the reader would (hopefully) be amazed – creating the “WOW effect” – which is even better for remembering information from the book.3-small

There is no doubt that AR technology is perfect for the education purpose. For example, there are already some schools where educators know that learning deepens, not just through reading and listening, but also through creating and interacting and that’s why they use AR apps on a daily basis. For me it was a great experience for which I am very grateful. I learned a lot about myself and figured out, what I really love to do. I have to (not very modestly) admit, that the book itself was quite a succes and all the work was worth it. Stay tuned if you are also interested in Augmented Reality because we will most definitely bring you more background insights soon – right here!

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