Augmented reality is a powerful technology which uses our own reality as a canvas to transform everyday places, faces and things into something new and extraordinary. With Image Target augmented reality, the physical image marker — such as a magazine page, poster or label — is an essential ingredient to bring your product to life, making it the subject in an AR experience. World Tracking augmented reality uses the surfaces around you to create a markerless experience anywhere you are. When these two powerful AR technologies are combined, it’s possible to create WebAR experiences which make use of the world and keep your product as the focal point.
On their own, Image Target experiences are extremely compelling. But when World Tracking is enabled, it provides environmental context and world understanding which adds a level of realism and freedom to Image Target experiences. More importantly, it allows an image target to be registered within the world space of a project, placing your product at the center of the AR experience.
The ability to use Image Targets and World Tracking (or SLAM) in tandem within the same WebAR project is unique to the 8th Wall platform. This feature has been available with our Flat Image Targets for some time now, but in late October we launched an update to our AR Engine (Release 15.1) which makes it possible to create Curved Image Target projects with our World Tracking enabled. If you have spent time developing with Flat Image Targets, Curved Image Targets should feel familiar to you.
Enabling World Tracking within Image Target projects opens up a series of new opportunities for developers.
1. Add a level of realism to your Image Target projects
With World Tracking turned on, your Image Target project understands where the nearest surface is. We highlight this in our Image Target to SLAM sample project found in the Project Library. In this project, a palm tree is triggered and tracked against a flat image marker and when you tap on the tree, coconuts fall from it. With World Tracking turned off, these coconuts would fall below the screen regardless of the orientation of your smartphone. Enabling World Tracking allows the coconuts to fall on the nearest surface, as you would expect in real life. The result is a much more realistic augmented reality experience.
2. Add freedom to your Image Target projects
In a typical Image Target project, the entire AR scene is attached to the image marker, but with World Tracking turned on, your scene can now be decoupled from the image target, freeing it from the marker and allowing it to make use of the surface(s) around the user. This creates experiences where the AR begins with the image marker and then continues into the world around it. In the example below, the label on the bottle is the image target which the dangling character hangs from. With World Tracking enabled, once the bottle is close to the surface, the character jumps free from the object and dances around on the ground. Making use of both the image target and the surface around an image target gives you the opportunity to create a much richer augmented reality experience and the relationship between the two can be quite magical.
3. Turn your product into the star of a World Tracking project
Combining Image Targets with World Tracking also makes the image marker core to any world AR experience. As image targets are often affixed to a product, such as labels, this can put your product on the AR map, allowing you to make it the center of a World AR experience. In this way, you can use your product to trigger the AR experience, generate an entire world around it and assign the object itself as an interactive element of the scene. In the example below, the label on the bottle is the image target and is used to begin the AR experience. Once the smartphone scans the label, the bottle comes to life and pumpkins appear on the surface around the object. As World Tracking is enabled, the pumpkins that spawn around the bottle will persist in space when the bottle is moved or even removed from the camera’s view. In these types of experiences, your product can also be used as building blocks of a world AR experience such as using two physical bottles as goal posts for a virtual soccer game, or a shoe box as a house that sits amongst a virtual city. With World Tracking turned on in Image Target projects, your product can start a world experience and become the foundation upon which an augmented world is built.
There are some best practices to keep in mind to optimize the user experience for WebAR Image Target projects when World Tracking is enabled. When creating your experience, you will want to guide your user to ensure the surface is detected before the image target in order to establish a high quality map first. The user should be made aware that a surface must be in view at all times when interacting with your experience. In addition, Image Target projects with SLAM work best when the marker is stationary and stable, so consider guiding your user to place your product on a surface before starting to augment it or leverage immovable image targets such as murals, billboards and wall-mounted posters. Providing some UX to guide users with these steps can go a long way in optimizing this type of project.
You can start developing Image Target projects with World Tracking enabled for both flat and curved image targets today with the 8th Wall platform. To get started with a Curved Image Target project, simply log in and clone the Curved + SLAM project from the Project Library. New users can sign up for a 14-day free trial of 8th Wall to get access to all of our reality tools.
We can’t wait to see what you create!
🙌 A big thank you to our developer community for consistently providing us with helpful insights and critiques on our software. We’re continuing to develop and iterate based on the valuable feedback that you provide us.