BadgerSpot’s Augmented Reality App Takes Social Networking to a New Level

Not long from now, many say, augmented reality will likely be as omnipresent as virtual reality is today. Increasingly, the technology that blurs the line between what is real and what isn’t is being pioneered by those seeking to find ways to integrate real life with computer-generated data, audio, graphics—even smells.


BadgerSpot's creators used C4D for their new social networking app.

Video games and cell phones are probably the biggest drivers of the development of augmented reality technology. And the Memphis-based creative team behind BadgerSpot, is right on trend with their new location-based social networking app, which they created using MAXON’s CINEMA 4D. “People are floored when they see it,” says Madeline Ward, the company’s CEO. “It’s kind of a mini social network that people can create at their apartment complex, a restaurant, anywhere.”


Prior to the release of R13, Magee used Cactus Dan's plug-ins for rigging characters, including this warthog.
(Click image for full size)

How it works

It’s difficult to describe, but simply put, BadgerSpot allows iPhone users (and soon Android, too) to create virtual message boards wherever they go. To do this, the free app needs to be paired with one of three augmented reality markers—specially designed symbols that trigger the augmented reality function in the app.

The markers can be downloaded at the BadgerSpot site: http://www.badgerspot.com. Once they’re printed, they become a 3D, interactive experience when a cell phone with the app installed is pointed at them. The green “official marker,” for example, allows users to create a BadgerSpot community in places like a favorite restaurant or coffee shop. Anyone with the app can participate by posting messages and other text-based content for friends.


BadgerSpot T-shirts work the same way the print markers do. Users with app-enabled phones can take aim at the image to see 3D characters spring into action.

While text is a limitation now, Ward and her colleagues, Troyan Turner, Greg Dunn and Chris Magee, are developing ways to upload videos and photos to BadgerSpot locations, too. “We might also feature comments so they would appear as if they were scribbled on the wall,” says Ward, who along with the rest of the BadgerSpot team, also run the 3D animation and illustration house, The Danse.

More than just badgers

Chris Magee, an avid fan of both comic books and comic-inspired art, was the primary creative force behind the app’s cast of characters. In addition to the badger, there is a dog, a warthog and a frog, which were all modeled in C4D. BodyPaint 3D was used for UV mapping and texturing. “I used to dread rigging, but it got to be a lot more fun with [CINEMA’s] R13,” says Magee, who has used Cactus Dan’s plug-ins to help with rigging in the past.


Sort of a "frog-lizard-alien hybrid," the BadgerSpot frog is one of several creatures featured in the app.
(Click image for full size)

Plans for the future are still being worked out as ideas pour in from individuals and businesses who have been using the app. BadgerSpot T-shirts are a sure thing, though, Ward says. And the team is also looking into developing a whole set of characters with stories all their own. “We’re still trying to figure it all out, but we’re thinking maybe if you unlock all the characters, an entire story will unfold,” says Ward.

The next iteration of the app is also likely to feature premium accounts for businesses that want to use BadgerSpot to create custom content or post things like daily specials, coupons and other offers.


The gun, a new addition to the BadgerSpot app, appears when users hold a marker or tape one to their hand. Modeled in C4D, it began with parametric objects and booleans to get the right shape, Magee says.

In addition to social networking enhancement and business offerings, Ward and her team are focusing their app functionality development on the needs of newspapers. Paper Companion, another app that’s available now, allows readers browsing their local paper to do things like watch videos, hear clips of a featured band or get deals available only to BadgerSpot users.


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Meleah Maynard is a Minneapolis-based freelance writer and editor. Contact her at her website: www.slowdog.com

 

 


December 26, 2011

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