Olivia Zhu
Nov 29, 2017 · 4 min read

When we get lost in an unfamiliar zone, we hesitate. Which one among the strangers looks friendly, reliable, and willing to help? To make it easier for us to find our way to any destination, Nexus Studios launched ‘HotStepper’, an unprecedented character-based way-finding app. It’s combined with the latest augmented reality (AR), geo-location and mapping technology.

Nexus Studios launched this app to coincide with the opening of their new U.S office in Los Angeles. Nexus Studios is a leading animation, film and interactive company based in London. It was Oscar-nominated for a short “ This Way Up “ and won a Cannes Lions Grand Prix awards for Honda Diesel’s “Grrr” in 2005 and another 2 Grand Prix honors for Chipotle’s “Back to the Start”. Nexus Studios is remarkably renowned for animation.

This app is very easy to use. Enter an address anywhere you would like to go, scan the environment of your departure point and hold your phone with the camera on. The pink half-naked fatty will guide you there, walking in real-life streets as you follow. He’s somewhat odd, but always delighting. He’s one of the fat guys who is yet flexible to show you some dance moves.

This app also solves a long-existing problem that looking at the map while walking can sometimes be dangerous because the surroundings can be neglected. What if a car occurs at a corner driving with a high speed? Or what if there is an elder lady next to you? Using HotStepper, one can find the route and at the same time, look at the screen with real-time traffic situation based on image taken by the camera. The pink fat buddy takes the responsibility of keeping you from danger of running into a passing-by passenger, or getting hit by a bicycle or a fast-driving car.

This way-finding buddy’s strong sense of direction comes from a bespoke system assessing your accurate location using your phone’s GPS, compass and accelerometer modules combined with mapping data of real-world space. The angle of the sunshine is also sophisticatedly calculated so that the shadow of your street guide would be the same as a real person’s, which perfectly merge the animation and the real space together.

This app is designed to be interactive since it’s connected with a large variety of live information. A hidden feature of this app is that when you get close to or walk past a hair salon, your buddy’s hair style will surprisingly transform into various styles, Afro, Mohawk, you name it. This innovative feature arouses users’ curiosity in searching for new locations to explore.

Following this crazy, funny, dancing buddy will keep you from frowning during the trip and he is a companion whom you can always rely on.

Nexus Studios’s Interactive Arts team designed this app to illustrate the future storytelling possibilities of using AR and location data, which will enhance its expertise in film and interactive.

Nexus Studios Head of Interactive Arts Luke Ritchie says: “HotStepper is part of a series of research projects we’re doing into storytelling using real-world data. We’re super excited to be exploring this new frontier and with HotStepper we’ve combined multiple innovations to bring to life a playful dude creating a fun way to get somewhere. The HotStepper has a complex steering algorithm that uses different types of data to keep him on the path and walking in the right direction. It’s only as good as the GPS data though so absolutely use your common sense when perhaps it appears he hasn’t!”

Now HotStepper is available for both Apple (iOS 11) and Android devices. Just try it and make daily-life adventures a bit fun!

AR IS MORE THAN FUN!

Moreover, AR can be applied against fear. Researchers at University of Canterbury’s Human Interface Technology Laboratory New Zealand (HIT Lab NZ) which is part of the VR First network (a global initiative enabling educators and companies within the field of VR/AR) designed an augmented reality application, “phobiAR”, aimed at treating arachnophobia or fear of spiders.

A giant virtual spider, which can crawl over patients’ hands and arms helps people to confront the fear in a safe environment rather than face a live, large and hairy spider. This app is not yet ready to treat arachnophobia patients as a phycological therapy and still undertaking trials on volunteers.

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