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Combilift and the leap into Augmented Reality (Demo)

Several months ago, we made our first steps into augmented reality.
Combilift C-series forklifts have an edge over conventional models thanks to their omnidirectional chassis which leads to high maneuverability, efficiency and cost effectiveness. The maneuverability of the C-series forklifts means that they require much less space, freeing up warehouse room for stock. It is also safer to use and can handle much longer loads than a conventional forklift.
MakinMediaMobile’s challenge was to  highlight these key advantages.
Because Combilift were due to be present at FABTECH 2016, North America’s largest metal forming, fabricating, welding and finishing event in Las Vegas, we wanted to create something that would catch people’s eye at the event. To this end we settled on the idea of a companion app for the Combilift catalogue. The Combilift representatives at the event would be equipped with this app on their phones and a copy of the Combilift catalogue. When pointed at a page of the catalogue, the app would display a 3D model of the appropriate forklift, along with options to view statistical information about that forklift, as well as see animations of its primary functions.
Augmented reality is great because it offers users an almost hands on experience with the forklifts. They are brought to life and can be seen from any angle, without needing to sit through a demonstration video – perfect for a busy event like FABTECH in Las Vegas.
We had previously explored interactive 3D projects, both for training purposes and for a large client job undertaken for Cloudsoft early last year.  However, we had never undertaken a job where we handled the interactive element ourselves.
Combilift provided us with CAD models for the forklifts, but we found that these were far too complex for use on a mobile device. We ended up rebuilding the models from scratch using Blender, our preferred 3D modelling software. This allowed us to limit the amount of geometry used while maintaining the look and feel of a Combilift forklift. While it sounds like a technicality, this process is vital to ensure smooth operation on a mobile or tablet.
Previous experience led us to produce the application using Unity. For the augmented reality functionality we used a Unity add-on called Vuforia, which allows you to use image targets that will be recognised by the app through the device’s camera, and in turn trigger events.
Each Combilift forklift model occupied a two page spread in the catalogue, so we used each of these spreads as a target image for the augmented reality application. When viewed through the camera of the mobile or tablet, the forklift model appears as though it is sitting on the catalogue page relating to it. It can then drive around on that surface, demonstrate its lifting capabilities, and display pertinent information corresponding to that forklift model.
The augmented reality app we produced was very well received and we are excited to continue developing it for Combilift and other clients.