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How immersive experiences inspire empathy and real-world behavior change

November 22, 2019 in Games | 4 min. read
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Fly into an exclusive game that combines ornithology, AR Foundation, and a fair amount of feathers. Krikey is a location-based augmented reality (AR) gaming app where you can explore your neighborhood to unlock AR ecosystems and discover new bird species.

The content below is courtesy of Krikey.

The power of immersion with mobile augmented reality (AR)

Krikey’s CTO, Dr. Ketaki Shriram has a background in research that focuses on the power of immersion to inspire empathy and create real-world behavior change.

Through numerous studies, results have shown that after having a meaningful immersive experience (like cutting down a virtual tree or watching yourself personify and perish as a piece of bleached coral), there is an increased willingness to engage and support conservation causes.

Within the Krikey app, there are two conservation-focused games. The first is called Wingspan, a game sponsored by the National Audubon Society and based on the best-selling board game. In this game, players are ornithologists, or bird scientists, seeking to protect and collect birds in different ecosystems. Built with Google Maps and Unity’s AR Foundation, players can walk around their neighborhood and unlock AR ecosystems at every street corner. Each ecosystem holds a unique bird species that players can interact with and learn about. Collecting a bird into their bird book also gives players a special bird card and gameplay highlight reel, which they can share with friends.

The second game, Gorillas!, was built in partnership with The Ellen DeGeneres Wildlife Foundation. In this game, players are explorers going on gorilla treks in their neighborhood to discover baby gorillas.

With the understanding that not everyone can travel to Rwanda to go on a real gorilla trek or have the ability to see unique bird species in their neighborhood, Krikey is embracing the power of mobile AR to scale these experiences to reach the masses. The realism of AR and its accessibility makes it ideal as an engaging window back into the natural world.

Creating the experience with AR Foundation

In addition to Unity controlling the entire graphics pipeline, including video recording and editing, AR Foundation serves as a key component in Krikey’s app and game builds to generate two important elements of AR experiences: ground plane detection and camera translation.

Ground plane detection

Theories of presence necessitate the need to focus on specific technical features of AR to engage users. Presence is the psychological sense of ‘being there’ in immersive environments and is determined by the degree to which users respond to their environment. Presence can also be defined as absence — how absent does a user feel from their physical world surroundings when in an immersive experience?

To give users more presence and engagement in the experience, Krikey chose to include AR ecosystems along with the AR birds in Wingspan. To generate a default ground plane, Krikey picks a position and orientation that is roughly 1.5 meters below the user’s phone. Since the relative position of the phone to the virtual scene is known, camera translation for users can still be enabled once the assets are spawned on the default ground plane. Seeing the bird in its environment draws a player further into the experience.

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Camera translation

Camera translation allows users to move across the Z-axis towards virtual objects. Are users responding effectively to the AR elements in a scene? Are they approaching to view objects from different angles as if they were real? Krikey set up their ecosystems so users are encouraged to walk into the virtual forest, or even kneel down next to a bird. With camera translation, Krikey was able to create a more realistic environment by creating the feeling that virtual objects within the game are actually rooted in the player’s physical world.

Through modeling, texturing, rigging, and animating every single one of the AR objects, Krikey hopes that the realism and beauty of the birds encourage players to get closer to the z-axis and see the hand-painted textures. 

Through location-based AR coupled with AR Foundation, Krikey is hoping to build empathy and inspire behavioral change. To learn more about how Krikey leveraged AR Foundation, watch their Unite Copenhagen session. The Krikey app is also available for download free on iOS and Android.



About Krikey

Krikey is an AR game that is live on iOS and Android. Previously, they have partnered with The Ellen DeGeneres Wildlife Foundation (GORILLAS!) & Sony Pictures Entertainment for GOOSEBUMPS, building custom multi-player AR games for each brand partner.

In September 2019, Krikey spoke at Unite Copenhagen and & launched WINGSPAN, their first location-based AR game built with Google Maps, sponsored by the National Audubon Society.

Krikey is founded by sisters, Jhanvi and Ketaki, who have previously worked at YouTube, Facebook’s Oculus, and Google [x]. Jhanvi holds a BA, MBA from Stanford and an MFA from USC, and Ketaki holds a BA, MA, and PhD from Stanford (in virtual reality and game development).

November 22, 2019 in Games | 4 min. read

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