A plain-language approach to authoring AR

The latest version of Unity MARS features the Rules workflow, a new UI view and method for describing AR layout and behavior concisely and in plain language. This provides you with a clear starting point for creating your AR experiences, and an easy way to manage hierarchies and to describe interactions.

Unity MARS helps you lay out digital content in ways that relate to the real world. By using proxies (stand-ins for real-world objects) and conditions (the criteria you set for when and how you want your digital content to interact with those real-world objects), Unity MARS looks for a good location match in the real world to place your digital content, and then triggers actions and events. With Unity MARS, you can define any set of conditions you want. We call this set of conditions a Rule.

The new Rules view provides a plain-language description of the expected real-world environment and the AR content to populate it. Here are two basic examples: “On every horizontal surface, create grass” and “On an image marker, show UI.” These simple sentences hide a fair amount of complexity from the user. 

For example, in a non-Rules Unity MARS scene, you would define the “On every horizontal surface, create grass” expression using a hierarchy of objects: a Replicator (“On every”), its child Proxy (“horizontal surface”), and its child content (“create grass”).

In the Rules workflow, you can quickly set up this AR scenario without needing to understand the underlying components or having to manage the Unity MARS object hierarchy.

A real-world example

Here you can see an example of a location-based experience authored using a photogrammetry scan of San Francisco’s Memorial Court and City Hall. We added descriptive data to the scan to provide more context for this location. 

You can see that our rules are simple and self-explanatory; for example, “on every window, spawn window prop.” Our goal is that anyone working on this project should be able to get a good sense of what this experience will do just by reading through the list of rules – in this case, theme this area with a Sci-Fi styling.

Providing an easy starting point for advanced elements

As well as the above functionality, the Rules workflow contains a number of additional features such as Proxy Groups and Landmarks that help you further describe and organize your AR scenarios.

Using Proxy Groups to query for real objects

A Proxy Group lets you query for a number of real objects. For example, you might need a set of real tables in order to create a virtual bridge for your character to walk across, or a series of images in an art gallery to trigger narration, or navigation to the next area of your experience. 

Proxy Groups also support special conditions that operate on multiple objects, such as a required distance range between the objects in the group. The Rules workflow provides a quick way to convert an existing single-object rule into a Proxy Group, and has simple ways to modify the group’s conditions in the Rules panel. 

Using Landmarks for common objects

Another advanced Unity MARS capability is Landmarks: a system for calculating more precise points and geometry within a Proxy. This concept started with Unity MARS’s face mask functionality, and the standard “landmarks”

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