How the idea was born to bring a Moa back from extinction
About a year ago, just after TEDx Auckland 2013 I was on the phone to Roger Brady from the Otorohanga District Council in New Zealand speculating what a great tourist attraction it would be if we could bring the Moa's back as part of the local Kiwi House tourist attraction. What better place in New Zealand than Metropolis Otorohanga with the world famous Kiwi House! The Otorohanga District Development Board funded a prototype of the idea.
So here we are, - a year later and the next TEDx show is on in a few weeks time -, and we have our first Geo Augmented Reality proto-type of a Virtual Moa wildlife Park ready to be introduced to the world!
It is the first of it's kind and uses cutting edge technology developed by Augview who I work with. We have developed a platform that will allow visitors to not only view Moa but also interact with them, walk up to them, follow them around or run away from them because they will at times stalk you for food!
I have started a blog to capture the journey along the way, in particular the feedback of our Moa experts Trevor Worthy and Lizzy Perrett during production.
Our first Moa is a beautiful Northern Island Giant Moa.
We have proven that our concept will work by setting up a test park in Victoria Park Auckland which is filled with an eclectic collection of virtual dinosaurs, architecture, fireworks, etc
At the moment we are using our native Augview platform to demonstrate the proto-type, but for the Kiwi House it would be more effective to have their own branded Kiwi House App that allows them to bring in some additional funding to preserve the New Zealand wildlife.
What we now need is NZ$85,000 to split off the app for the KiwiHouse and an additional NZ$95,000 to add more content like the Haast Eagle and a Moa nesting side, chicks, eggs, etc to make a visit worthwhile! The current Augview app has been designed to be used in the utilities industry and that's why we need to redesign our current interface so it is simpler to use. We have only asked for $5,000 because that seemed to be a good start, but are hoping for your generosity and enthusiasm.
And then we got Media attention...
When we started telling people about our 1st proto-type we got Media attention very quickly
Who is behind the App development?
The Virtual Bird Park concept by software development company Augview, has been welcomed by the Otorohanga District Development Board (an Economic Development Agency funded by the Otorohanga District Council) and the Otorohanga Kiwi House and Native Bird Park, a not-for-profit wildlife centre established in 1971 and dedicated to the conservation and breeding of NZ’s rare and endangered wildlife. The Virtual Bird Park would be located opposite the Otorohanga Kiwi House in Rotary Park and surrounding areas. It will add to the Otorohanga Kiwi House income stream, attract further tourism and put Otorohanga on the map as the first town in Australasia to have a Virtual Augmented Reality Park.
The Otorohanga District Development Board is very supportive, because it creates educational opportunities for local students to learn IT skills required in building the Virtual Bird Park and growing the digital industry.
The overarching strategy is to: · Make Otorohanga the first Virtual Town with a variety of Augmented Reality Parks, games and local community content to experience and interact with · Create a digital industry sector in Otorohanga
How does the Technology work?
Augmented Reality has been a buzz word for the past few years but only few people really understand its potential. Augview (www.augview.net) is a Kiwi owned software developer with the technology to work in the Geo Augmented Reality space. Geo AR uses GPS coordinates to position complex 3D models or animations into real space. The combination of both reality and the virtual reality is called Augmented Reality. Unlike most Augmented Reality apps we don’t use markers, pictures or other forms of tracking the digital feed into the live camera feed. We use the mobile sensors to position a 3D world into the real space the user moves around in.
Geo AR is a very immersive way to play, explore and move around in a virtual parallel universe that co-exists within our own. It is a creative playing field with enormous potential and the 1st of it’s kind in the world. The closest in comparison is “Ingress” developed by Google which uses the combination of GPS data and Augmented Reality but not to its full potential.
Augview Ltd is a software developer specialising in the new cutting edge technology of GEO AR (Geographical Augmented Reality).
GEO AR uses the mobile sensors (now quite common) in smartphones and tablets to create an alternative universe within the real world. You can compare it with a giant Playstation, where a real park becomes the virtual playing field. The player explores this digital world by moving around and interacting with the virtual world content.
In order to see this virtual world the player needs a digital device such as a smartphone or a digital tablet. The camera function within the device is utilised as the window to the other world and is essentially a live camera feed overlaid with a digital feed from an intelligent 3D game engine (Unity) which calculates the viewer’s physical location. The virtual world content is linked to GPS coordinates, which respond to the GPS feed from the viewer’s digital device.
The virtual birds in the Otorohanga Virtual Bird Park will be 3D animated models, which are linked to each other using game flow mechanics. For instance, if a visitor walks up to a Moa the distance will trigger the Moa to react at some stage. It may look up at the visitor and react in a friendly way or it might be programmed to attack because the adult female Moa has a young bird and feels threatened. This will all depend on the scripting of the game flow.
The digital device used by the visitor feeds information to the game engine about the player’s location in the park, the direction in which he/she is looking and their proximity to the next virtual bird. Birds might stalk a visitor and beg for food (which could become a lesson in itself… more birds appear and want food and surround the visitor and become aggressive) or protect their young, flee, interact with each other, react to other birds entering the scene, etc.
Every visitor’s view will be unique and each visitor will have their own experience of what is happening in their virtual world.
The 3D models and the bird behaviour will be guided by the Moa expert Trevor Worthy and Lizzy Perret, the zoologist and wildlife manager based at the Otorohanga Kiwi House. Our Moas closest relatives are the emu, ostrich, kiwi bird species and we endeavour to make the bird park visit an authentic experience.
Augview has also invested in Augmented Reality glasses. We will be aiming to make this wildlife park available for Meta AR Glasses, also known as www.spaceglasses.com. These are gesture interactive Augmented reality glasses that would take this experience to the next level.
Our team is already developing for Meta and we are looking forward to bringing you updates as Meta develops further.
Below is a link to one of our early Augview demo videos, which has been filmed at Victoria Park in Auckland. We have filled the park with all sorts of creatures, architecture etc and the viewer can walk around the park and explore. We have noticed that our players get so absorbed in the virtual world that they often forget where they are. As a result we locate our Virtual Parks in safe pedestrian areas without any traffic or other hazards. Observers often approach us and ask “What on earth are you doing?” or “What are you looking at?”. Kids love it and don’t notice how much running they do as they explore this world. Anything is possible in the virtual world.
The dinosaur models shown in the video were purchased from the Unity store for a small fee and are very basic demo models. We will be modelling the Otorohanga birds to look much more sophisticated within the current capability of digital devices. (Most consumer devices can at present manage 500.000-1 million polygons).
The birds will also have improved lighting and shading/shadows. The earlier You Tube demo video was part of a Proof of Concept example and as you can see from the current model at the top, we are developing our Moa with the little funds we have left further.
Our Rewards for your help!
and some of the fluffy critters that are up for reward!
We are currently designing some very cool T-Shirts and I am optimistically hoping I can turn them into AR T-Shirts if we get enough funding so you can have your photo taken with a Moa if you wear the T-Shirt!
Otorohanga also sees the potential for significant educational opportunities. Currently over 8000 students visit from schools outside of the area to participate in educational programmes. These visiting students and local students will benefit from the opportunity to learn about NZ’s extinct wildlife, animal behaviour and conservation concepts through interaction in an augmented reality. They will also learn to take risks, make informed decisions and explore both physical and virtual space in a controlled safe environment.
The local high school, Otorohanga College, has committed to develop both staff skills in Unity software programming, and to create relevant unit standards to enable students to gain qualifications in three dimensional graphic design and computer programming. Otorohanga South School, the largest local primary school, has also committed to ensuring all 11 and 12 year old students develop skills in basic programming and three dimensional animation using entry level software. We are liaising with a number of tertiary providers to ensure there are clear pathways for these young people to continue to develop skills and gain marketable qualifications. These students will be able to utilise the Virtual Bird Park as a platform for exhibiting their creations.
The app can also be used offline, so visitors overseas can observe Moas etc from their comfortable seat at home. However, they won’t be able to walk up to a bird and have the same interactive experience as someone in the park.
The Virtual Bird Park is for all ages. Statistics show that currently most people between the ages of 15-65 have a suitable digital device. The Otorohanga Kiwi House currently has a visitor stream of approximately 40,000 people annually (projected to increase significantly with the planned re-development). We expect 50% of visitors would download the game and get hooked by the free experience.
The Kiwi House is also interested in providing tablets on loan to those visitors arriving without their devices.
Visitors will learn about the app on arrival at the Otorohanga Kiwi House, welcoming them to the world’s first Geo AR Virtual Bird Park.
Risks and challenges
The Otorohanga District Council has provided some seed funding to develop the Moa as far as you can see it now.
Behind Augview, the software developer, is a dedicated team of experienced developers and engineers who are experts in GIS and Geo Augmented Reality.
We are also aiming to release a version for the Meta Glasses (www.spaceglasses.com) which we are working with.
The Virtual Bird Park will be initially only available in Otorohanga until it is fully established.
At present we only need the money to break away the app for the Kiwi House.
For now every $$$ counts to develop this dream further and give a community a cutting edge Virtual Park that assist income through tourism, digital education and make visitors wonder what animals will go extinct next?Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (30 days)