Jakarta, October 9 2016.
In recent years augmented reality is becoming more and more a common things in our daily life. The phenomenon of “Pokemon Go” and the future technology called project “Tango” by Google and it’s hardware manufacturer partners will set new standard of how we interact with real world in a “digital way”. The augmented reality hype not only affects the entertainment industry but also the educational field. One of the best examples of how education can be leveraged by augmented reality technology is our own product called “Flashcards Arabic Letters & Numbers Augmented Reality”. This product was launched in the mid September 2016 by our own company Blastocode. The main premise of the product is to help children learn Arabic letters, numbers and animals name independently and effectively using augmented reality technology.
The mission of the product
The biggest question that we need to answer to the public is “WHY”. Why you need augmented reality while you can just buy ordinary Arabic letters flashcards without any fancy technology such as augmented reality? The answer is in two words: “self learning”. Don’t get me wrong. We never try to replace parent’s or teacher’s role in children’s education. We are all agreed that quality time in children’s education is irreplaceable. It is by far the most important aspects in a child’s life. A time where parents get together with their kids and share things like experience, knowledge, feelings, etc. But we also need to realize that as a parent we can’t be with our kids 24 hours a day. A father must go to work to earn and sustain the family. Even a housewife mother sometimes need to cook foods or take care other chores. At that unattended moment children can easily find and explore media which may not be suitable for their age. They may watch TV or browse internet which sometimes display violence, drug reference, pornography and other negative contents. By developing a positive media that empower children with self learning capabilities we can avoid the risks in these unoccupied times.
How we made the product?
We made the product using Blender, Adobe Illustrator, Unity and Vuforia. Every 3D contents you see in the product was made using Blender without any help from other 3D software. And not only in the product it self, Blender is also used for developing marketing contents such as promotional videos and also used in the UI animation of the app.
Every 3D animations inside this promotional video are made using Blender + Cycles renderer.
Many people think that developing AR products is hard. This assumption is not true. Developing AR it self is actually easy. This is because AR engine provider such as Vuforia has develop plugin that you can easily drop in to your project especially if you are using it together with Unity game engine. The most time consuming is actually developing the 3D contents. It took us about 4 months to develop the 3D content and only 2 weeks to make them an AR products. This condition amplified due to the fact that we need to develop lots of 3D contents for the product. The flashcards consist of 26 cards for letters and 10 cards for numbers. So that will be a total of 38 cards each with multiple augmented reality contents. For number cards for example, we need to create three type of animations which are idle animation, action animation and fun animation. This is where Blender really shine. If we didn’t use Blender we might end up taking twice the time we had to develop the product.
The general process is like this. First we design the illustrations for the printed flashcards using Adobe Illustrator. After the design finished then it can go to printing factory and also go to Vuforia website to be converted into image target database. Then we move on to developing the 3D contents using Blender from 3D modeling, unwrapping, texturing, rigging and creating animations. After they are all done we combine everything in Unity and then publish it to multiple platform.
Why we choose Blender?
There are so many reasons of why we choose Blender over other 3D software. Here are some of them.
1. Full featured
Blender has everything that we need, even more, to accomplish our tasks in developing AR products. It has full featured sculpting, texture painting, weight painting, professional rendering engine, etc. all in one package. In other 3d software ecosystem you need to purchase all them as separate software.
2. Consistent and make sense
Blender UI and shortcuts are consistent. Other 3D software that we know and used before suffer from legacy-compatibility-syndrome. My experience teaching Blender in comparison with other 3D software is that most students learning Blender can achieve progress twice than students who learn other 3D software.
3. Fast workflow
Interaction with Blender at first may seems a bit daunting as you need to memorize different kind of shortcuts. But in my experience it doesn’t take too long to get familiar with how Blender works. And when you get the hang of it, you’ll wish that every 3d software or even every software in general to be more like Blender.
4. Play nice with Unity
This is the most amazing thing I found out when working with unity and Blender. They both work seamlessly. You just need to save blender file in “.blend” format like you normally would. Copy the file to Unity asset folder. And that’s it. Unity will recognize the file and convert it automatically to FBX format in the background without you having to do anything. It just works.
Yes Blender is free as we all know it. For small startup like us using Blender is a huge cost benefits.
In the near future we’ll be releasing video tutorial series where we cover everything from A – to -Z on how to develop augmented reality product using Blender, Unity and Vuforia. Most of the videos will be Blender related that covers modeling until animation. Only one video will discuss Unity and Vuforia. We hope with these videos more and more people realize how powerful Blender is and start using it for their professional works. I will provide updates to Blender-Nation when the videos are alive. -in sha Allah-
Where to get the product
If you are interested in our product and want to learn more, you can visit the official website through this link: flashcardshijaiyah.com/en/
Blastocode is a startup founded since August 2015 by Widhi Muttaqien (CEO) and Lhuqita Fazry (CTO) in Indonesia. The main mission of Blastocode is developing safe and educational products for children utilizing technology and state of the art content. Blastocode has already released several mobile apps such as “Salat Of The Prophet” dan “Electro Shape”.