Augmented Reality Project - For Australian Science Exhibition (Questacon) - Part 2/2

Making Of / 08 October 2020

Hello Everyone,
This is blog post is Part 2 of 2, if you would like to see Part 1 click here.

Back in 2018, I had the opportunity to work with Questacon through AIE on an exhibition called Born or Built. Questacon is Australias national Science and technology centre with more than 200 Interactive exhibits. 

"The Born or Built exhibition is all about what is it meant to be human. It examines the similarities and differences between humans and machines, explores our overlapping shared future, and questions the choices we will make to get there." 

You can check out a visual summary of the exhibition in the video below:

So more or less it is an exhibition for kids exploring ethics regarding AI and machines, with a whole bunch of interactive displays, and I was brought in to finish a project that was already in development.

The installation was an interactive LCD display using augmented reality, which allows whoever is interacting with the display/webcam feed to switch out different body parts with Human or robotic features. Works very similar to how Snapchat filters work, with the 3d Mesh or shapes being tracked ontop of a live video feed. You can check out more about the technology from the company's website Magic Mirror. The Idea is as you replace body parts, you will be prompted with the question "Are you still human? Yes? or No?".

Here is a short video from Magic Mirror showcasing it in action:

Having not a lot of time allocated to it during the week while teaching full-time, it was a tight deadline with only a few weeks to pull it off. I was also picking up the project from a former colleague Dylan Young, who moved on from teaching to greener pastures. Dylan made an awesome 3d model of a robot leg that ended up in the final product which was used to flesh out the rest of the character in the end. 

My responsibility was to deliver 6 remaining body part assets. to which I modeled, retopo'd/baked, textured and rigged. I ended up using , Substance Painter, Maya, and Marmoset toolbag 3 for this project.

I also utilised some free models from Turbo Squid which were a great help:

These images below are the final assets in Unity's 2018 Beta viewport. The goal was to make robotic parts that resembled human parts while also not being too scary and fun for kids to interact with.

Chest Piece with human Heart Top Left, Leg Piece - Bottom Left, Arm - Right

Brain Cap - Top Left, Full Body - Bottom Left, Robot and Human Heart - Top Right, Chest w/Robot Heart - Bottom Right

Full body Kit - Left, Robot/Human Heart - Top Right, Robot Legs - Bottom Right

Below are some images from the opening day back in 2019. The kids really enjoyed the display and turned out quite popular. 

All in all, it was a fantastic experience, and congratulations to everyone involved, you can see everyone else who was involved in the photo above.

Catch you next time. 


Stelarc Head Scanning - For Australian Science Exhibition (Questacon) - Part 1/2

Making Of / 07 October 2020

Hello Everyone,
Back in October of 2018, I had the opportunity to work with Questacon, AIE, and University of Canberra. I was also lucky to be able to be involved with 2 projects for the same exhibition. This blog post is part 1 of 2, It will become too long to discuss it in the same post, so it will be separate.

I was called in to scan the head of a performance artist "Stelarc" for an exhibition called Born or Built. The Exhibit is now open to the public and is cleared with any art embargo so I can talk about the behind the scenes and how I have been involved.

Here is a summary of what the exhibition is about from their website:

"The exhibition is all about what is it meant to be human. It examines the similarities and differences between humans and machines, explores our overlapping shared future, and questions the choices we will make to get there."

The location of this exhibition is at Questacon (The National Science and Technology Centre), which is located in Canberra Australia. However, the exhibition is designed to travel and be moved around to various locations in Australia and internationally. 

I was brought in during the first initial stages of the project to assist in capturing a 3D Scan of Stelarc's head when he was in town. These files were then processed to be passed onto the talented character artist Gene O'Reilly. Who undertook clean up, facial rigging, and blend shapes. John Millard who played the programming role put it all together and gave it life within Unity.  

The above picture is what the final result came out as, where the digital head will be running within Unity3d on an LCD screen mounted to a robotic arm that can detect movement and sound in relation to its own location and therefore interact with the people around it. Additionally, the head will respond to questions inputted via a keyboard somewhere located next to the art installation.

You can see further details within the timestamped video embedded below.

Jumping back to BTS, 

With the assistance of Damith, we used a handheld scanner called Go!SCAN 3D which was borrowed from the University of Canberra engineering department to do initial scans and capture the mesh and texture. Because of my previous experience with photogrammetry, I was tasked to make sure the data was collected correctly and we had multiple options to pursue if one of the capture methods failed. 

I only had a small time frame to test the equipment, 30 minutes before Stelarc arrived, so I made sure to capture images with the Canon 5D to support the scan if the texture resolution wasn't good. This ultimately was a good idea as the texture resolution and mesh integrity weren't all the best  (Lighting conditions were quite poor).

These were some of the results, Go!SCAN 3D produced, with very varied results. not exactly ideal for high-resolution texture capture however the overall mesh capture seemed to work. I did about 3 captures of the face, each had severe mesh tearing. Although it was a cool learning experience to try out the laser scanning setup and see how everything comes together. 

At this point in the project, it was handed over to Gene O'Reilly, which he worked his Zbrush and substance painter magic and repaired the model. You can check out his post on Artstation here, where you can see a breakdown of the final model.

Here are some photos from when the exhibition opened. Unfortunately, I am still yet to see it in person, it was traveling around Australia at the time of these photos.

Credits above ^

Overall it was fun to work on this project and help contribute to the overall exhibition and congratulations to everyone involved, In part 2, I will talk about another project for Born or Built. An augmented reality project that raises questions on what makes you human.

See you all next time,