Goal

Outcome

Research

Design

Prototype

Evaluate     

Finding 

Takeaway

Any-Mate

Any-mate is an AR experience for fans to explore the cartoon world while becoming their favorite characters. It’s a playground where fans get embodied to the augmented characters and create diverse content(UGC).

From recreating iconic scenes to making entirely new content with friends, Any-mate brings diverse ways for fans to share creations and provides a platform for co-creation.

PROJECT Timeline

July – August 2020

CATEGORY

Augmented Reality

Responsibilities

UX research and analysis
AR prototyping
Interaction design

Tools

Unity ARFoundation
Sketch
Blender


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01. Project goal

Fan participation in the brand is expanding. Using the character and plot of the series, they are creating their own story.
It ranges from face swap clips to making series in social VR spaces while embodied to their favorite 3D character. The platform also lowers the barrier towards the creation.

As the user-generated content(UGC) community expands, I explored how the current platform supports fans’ creativity and suggested a new platform that would take fans’ innovation further.

02. Project outcome

I developed an AR app where fans can jump into their favorite series and become their favored characters.
The platform is an imaginative space where both fan’s journey and the original series 
can continue.
Fans create and record memories with diverse prompts, co-create with peer fans, bring memories into the real world, and finally share 3D space with others.

app key flow
key app flow

1  Choose your favorite series

2  Record your adventures

3  Bring and replay memory in real world 

Jump into the cartoon world!

Travel to the treehouse at Land of Ooo through the portal.
Scan the ground to find out the perfect spot to place the portal. 

Become the character, Jake!

Get introduced to your guide BMO and let one help you on how to perfectly transform into your favorite character.

Interaction flow

Jump into the cartoon world!

Travel to the treehouse at Land of Ooo through the portal.
Scan the ground to find out the perfect spot to place the portal. 

Become the character, Jake!

Get introduced to your guide, BMO, and let one help you on how to perfectly transform into your favorite character.

Dance-off!

Start the adventure by immersing yourself in the iconic moment, and dance off to the bug song!
Shake off your body and record the moves to replay them and share them with others.
Check out BMO who plays the original clip to help your dance!

Teleport and make your meme!

Now that you are familiar with being Jake and how interaction works,
start making unique memories.
Teleport to different parts of the treehouse.
Walk around to find objects that trigger your imagination.
Finally, create your version of the short scenes that are memeable!

Transform and create with other fans!

Do you want to get creative? Transform to other versions of Jake.
Co-create with other fans and be more imaginative.
Plan your scene, act it out, and record it to keep it in your memory.

Connect the AR world with your real world!

Those adventures never ONLY live inside the screen.
Bring them to the real world, where you can dynamically store them.
Place the characters you animated into the real world, let them inspire your ongoing creativity, and expand your world.
Also, invite your friends to your world!

03. Process

The project was conducted as an internship project at WarnerMedia Innovation Lab.
Working as a Creative Technologist, I focused on building an experience that creates value for both brands and fans
To achieve the goal, I conducted UX research to find a novel opportunity, designed AR experiences, and conducted user testing to validate the proposed concept

Research

User interview
Competitive analysis

Design and Prototyping

Interaction scenario design
Unity prototype development

Evaluation

User interview
Value positioning

04. Research

To create new experiences for fans, I started with finding how fans are involved with content nowadays. From the insights I gained from talking with fans, I researched different platforms that provided space for content creation. 

User interview

Looked into how fans engage with the content
and what UGC they create

Competitive analysis

Looked into what UGC platforms provide and
what gap exists between findings from user interview

User interview

I conducted user interviews with three cartoon fans to inquire if and how they engaged with their favorite content. Following questions were asked.

  • As a fan, how do you get involved in content other than merely watching the show?
  • How familiar are you with UGC? Are you involved with them and if so, how?
  • If you could participate in fan activity in AR/VR, what would you like to do?

“As a fan, how do you get involved in content other than merely watching the show?”

“How familiar are you with UGC?
Are you involved with them and if so, how?”

“If you could participate in fan activity in AR/VR, what would you like to do?”

Insights from user interview

Opportunity in AR

AR filters are the most approachable way for fans to create new content

Platform for extended creation

Fans need new platforms to expand creativity and support the broader scale of ideas and fan storytelling

Connect virtual and physical

Content should no longer be trapped in flat screens – there needs a connection between virtual and physical worlds

Co-creation

Production companies and fans can create series together and yield a win-win result

Competitive analysis

From the interview, fans were actively using immersive platforms to expand creativity.
I conducted competitive research on AR/VR platforms including TikTok, Snap Chat, Instagram, VRchat, and Roblox.
I focused on what experiences they provide for fans and what gaps exist between users’  needs and the current system.

05. Opportunity

AR platforms such as TikTok, Snap Chat, and Instagram make it easier for users to create UGC. The platforms provide diverse filters and allow users to expand creativity using different technology – face & body tracking and space anchors.
However, they had shortcomings in providing the following experience, which I found from the research.

Creating continuing series

The platforms are suitable for creating one single story, not for the continued story

Co-creation

Most AR experiences are solo experiences, compared to how fans normally interact with friends 

Sharing and revisiting

When sharing the contents, they no longer exist in 3D space.
The same applies when the user revisits one’s contents

Connection

Fans love filling their space with merch. AR creations, however, only live inside the screen and lack a connection with the real space

06. Design

From the insights, I started defining target users, designing their interaction scenarios, and taking it further by developing prototypes.

Target

Fans who want to jump into their favorite series (Cartoon Network or Adult Swim)

Fans in their teens and 20’s who are familiar with content creation on platforms like TikTok and Snapchat

Fans who enjoy creating secondary creations, alone or with other fans

Fans who are comfortable with technologies such as body tracking and AR/VR for authoring and sharing their creations

Concept mechanism

Portal

A portal, which will take fans to the different venues of their favorite show

Embodiment

Full-body tracking, enabling fans to become their favorite character from a series

Imagination trigger

Trigger fans’ imagination where they create a unique version of the show, from song dance-offs to becoming an animator

Connection

Link virtual space with the real world. Get connected with other fans by visiting their world or creating together

App key functions

07. Prototype

After setting the target, mechanics, and key functions of the application, I built a working prototype to validate the essential points of the interaction. 

Guided body mapping
through storytelling

Recording body movements while embodied to the character

Triggering user’s imagination
using prompts and portal

Bringing experiences at
augmented space to real-world

To build the prototype, I compared different software to find the ideal developing environment. 
I decided to make a prototype at Unity as I put more emphasis on rapid prototyping than ease of sharing the app with others.

The prototype requires the user to move back and forth from holding the phone to placing it on the phone stand.
Due to the limitation of the screen size, the user has to place the mobile distance away to perform full-body tracking.

Unity environment

For building different interactions in AR, I utilized ARfoundation and its 3D full-body mapping.
For users to record their movement while mapped to their favorite character, I used GameObjectRecorder for testing. While recording it captures and saves every skeleton position and rotation. The recorder is only available within Unity editor, but it’s a fast method to test the core concept of the platform.
To use the chosen way of recording animation, Unity AR Remote Plugin was used for rapid prototyping without the need of building each time.

Work environment – Unity ARFoundation

Recording each skeleton position and rotation using UnityObjectRecorder

08. Evaluate

With the prototype developed, I organized user testing with five people to get impressions on the interactions scenarios. 

User interview

The interview sought out to answer the following:

  • How was the experience? Would you be willing to use it?
  • Which use case are you open to creating?  What was the barrier that refrains you from doing other use cases?
  • Would you be willing to use this with your friends? If so, what are the things you want to do?
  • Are there any functions you would like to add?
  • Are you willing to mix your favorite series with the real world?

Interview result snippets

UserA (late 20’s), Game lover,
active Snapchat user

  • Mostly use the platform to look closely around the three house
  • Willing to recreate conversation-based short meme
  • Travel to her friend’s treehouse, not to a stranger, due to worries in spotting inappropriate creation
  • Interested in looking around other’s creations that re-creates original
  • Would not be willing to bring her creation to the real world but would love to change the interior design of her room using the product

UserB(mid 20’s), student in tech and art area,
active fan invovled in UGC

  • Interested in using the platform to travel to the cartoon world
  • Would like to interact with other characters and friends
  • Instead of him becoming the main protagonist, he’d like to be a unique character that matches the series’s art style
  • Would be open to a dance-off and enjoy seeing other’s version
  • Would need more triggers and guidelines to perform freestyle moves

09. Findings

By interacting with the prototype and through user testing, I was able to find opportunities and moreover challenges and aspects to explore further.

Opportunity

Co-creation

Social AR space for fans where fans not only visit other’s creation but also create content together

Immersive space for short contents

A platform for fans to create their dance moves or short memes recreating original scenes

Challanges

Freedom of creation

Dancing off or creating short memes was the right amount of commitment they can make.

However, giving too much freedom without hints or prompts have scared users off

Control and inspection

Fans are reluctant to travel to stranger’s world as one can encounter inappropriate contents

Inspecting creation would be necessary, but prevention and drawing the line would be more important

Limitation of AR

Due to the limitation of screen size, users have to place the mobile in inductance. To record the movement, users had to move back and forth.

An accessible way of controlling the record button would be needed to improve the user’s experience, such as a voice interface.
Even more, the platform has to be reconsidered such as large display or even VR environment.

Mixed interactions

The platform requires the user to go back and forth between two statuses – seeing oneself in the screen while embodied to the character and not seeing oneself while moving around to trigger portals or objects. 

These distinct interactions may confuse the user’s identity inside the experience.

Explorable

Becoming new character

Some users preferred becoming a new character, not their favorite character.
They wanted to be a customized character designed after the user’s visual characteristics and interact with favorite characters.

Example of appearing as a customized character
(https://www.fiverr.com/katsuhito/drawing-anime-or-manga-for-you)

10. Takeaways

From this project, I learned how to create the product for both brands and users. Creating values for both was challenging, as each design decision had to be beneficial for both. Also thinking about how the project will be released into the market was a great learning, such as how would it be different from developing the stand-alone app to making a partnership with Snapchat differ? Considering details, for instance, making a prototype with IPs from a series that will launch within a few months would increase the chance for the app to be developed. All of those challenges made me think to see the ecosystem of a product

I got more familiar with working with Unity, especially ARFoundation. I realized the importance of testing with prototypes as I was able to develop ideas and validate interactions. The challenges and opportunities were clearly stated with the prototype and user interview. I will take those questions further and try to answer the following questions in the upcoming projects.

  • How can we prevent and monitor people from creating inappropriate UGC?
  • What other interactions or user scenarios can be designed for the user to jump between augmented reality, virtual reality, or reality.
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