These days, interacting with augmented reality and virtual reality comes naturally to social media users. Brands have caught on and are leveraging the medium to help tell their stories—from Oliver Peoples letting customers try on sunglasses in Instagram Checkout to Google allowing you to place animals such as pandas and Shetland ponies in your home. Technology has made it easier and cheaper to produce these immersive experiences quickly and inexpensively.
But as recently as 2016, only four years ago, AR and VR were novelties among motion designers. They were buzzwords, something we tinkered with in our spare time—maybe something we pitched as a bold experiment for a client, if we could convince them it was worth the investment. I wasn’t sure how AR and VR would evolve in the future, but I pursued my curiosity anyway, played with ideas and took the time to learn the skills. It turns out, going down that rabbit hole helped me build a foundation for the work I do now.
When I first started learning about AR and VR, it required specialized coding skills, and most people used software for creating video games. I spent about a month teaching myself the basics of a program called Unity, getting excited about the possibilities this could unlock for my clients and their brands.
A client in the construction industry was interested, and I began developing a unique VR experience for them on Google Cardboard. It was a virtual construction site with animated workers and moving vehicles such as forklifts and trucks, as well as animated popup menus with stats about the equipment. It was a pretty adventurous strategy for the brand—which might be why the marketing director ultimately scrapped the project.
I still believed that AR and VR could be game changers for my clients, so I kept learning and building. In 2017, I created a St. Patrick’s Day greeting that played when you held your phone over the back of my business card. When the app recognized the logo on the card, it triggered the scene to play: Grass sprang up, and a sleeping leprechaun woke from a nap to ask a riddle. My friend Stephen Tansley voiced the character, and we hosted a Facebook Live event to share the app and the possibilities of advertising in AR. Over time, it started catching on.
Flash forward to 2019, when Nomadic’s producer Andrea asked, “Hey, do you think you could create an AR Instagram filter?” I was already in the beta program for Facebook’s Spark AR Studio, so I said sure, I’d give it a go. It only took me half an hour to develop a working filter that allowed users to wear virtual accessories. Nomadic’s art director Rachel loved the idea and used it in a pitch for a client with a major event coming up. They said yes!
We were able to move quickly and add a shiny new capability for the agency thanks to those years of research and testing. My passion project morphed into a valuable product that we can confidently offer to any of our clients.
If you’re a creative looking for ways to expand your thinking or gain new opportunities, don’t be afraid to follow your heart and dive deeper into your personal interests. Keep an eye on emerging techniques and software and start to grow your knowledge, even if you’re not yet sure exactly how to pitch it to a client. Over time, your expertise could set you up to get a running start when trends take off.
This article was authored by a member of the Nomadic Network.