Classic cartoon duo Wallace and Gromit will venture from their clay world into ours as part of a new augmented reality experience that aims to push the boundaries of tech-driven storytelling.
The interactive app, Wallace and Gromit: The Big Fix Up, uses city-wide AR gameplay, extended reality portals, and comics to guide the viewer through a tale of the animated couple throwing a company to repair his British hometown. .
Its creators – a team from studio Aardman Animations, media company AR Fictioneers, and AKQA-owned software developer Potato – hope it will help inspire new types of nonlinear storytelling rooted in mixed reality formats like RA.
Scott Ewings, leader and founder of Fictioneers, said the inspiration for the project began with a UK government grant designed to promote innovation in media. The fundraising mandate was broad: to build an experience that will play with the audiences of the future.
“It was one of those really big blank briefs that you very rarely get,” Ewings said. “So we came up with a vision to improve storytelling, specifically how storytelling could evolve by harnessing a variety of cross-media types and playing in real time.”
From there, Fictioneers met Aardman – the studio behind Wallace and Gromit – and decided that the beloved three-decade-long franchise would serve as an accessible world in which to lay the first test of this new vision.
“We felt that Aardman and in particular, the universe of Wallace and Gromit – these much loved and iconic characters – would play very well to turn them into augmented reality objects and experiences,” Ewings said. “We felt that augmented reality in particular would be one of the types and formats of media that we wanted to play with because it suited the story.”
The team used the Mixed and Augmented Reality Studio product from game developer platform Unity Technology and the AR Foundation Toolkit to create the immersive world in which the experience takes place. They have also collaborated with Sugar Creative and Rebel Games and received research support from the University of South Wales.
Ewings said the team has also developed software that will determine how the game unfolds in real time based on the user’s interactions with the story.
“What we basically do with the software that we have developed is that we decide when the content elements are deployed, how they are deployed and under what conditions each content element is attached to it”, a- he declared. “This is largely how we break down the concept of traditional three-act history and start to incorporate interactions into it.”
Ewings hopes to build on the software engine the team created for the game to fuel further experiences in nonlinear stories and extended reality formats, such as stories told simultaneously from the perspectives of different characters or stories with radically different endings.
The app comes as AR saw a rise in popularity among brands and content creators looking to the format as a way to engage disparate consumers amid the covid-19 pandemic. Amazon Prime, HBO and BBC have all recently built additional AR games and experiences to promote various TV and streaming titles.