Model maker Amalgam uses augmented reality to complement physical models

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A physical model of a superyaht draws visitors to the exhibition stand whilst the augmented reality app on an iPad enables them to interact with the model virtually

Augmented reality (AR) is a type of virtual reality that superimposes information, such as graphics, video and audio, over a real-world environment to enhance the experience for the user.

It is by no means new but it is rapidly gaining pace, including in the model making industry.

Chris Conlon of Amalgam, Bristol-based model makers, was approached by a client in the superyacht industry that was keen to complement a physical model of a yacht with a virtual model on an iPad app at a forthcoming exhibition.
“The physical model would draw the visitors to the stand and then they get handed an iPad and through an app they can start to interact with the model with virtual information overlaid on top of it,” explains Conlon.

The same CAD data that the yacht designers gave to Amalgam to CNC and 3D print the physical model is used to create the virtual model with additional detail added into it. For instance, an engine can be placed inside the yacht. So, if the user touches the engine on the iPad’s touchscreen, a panel will pop up with information about it.

“I have worked closely with a company who used the clever programming, which overlaid the physical model we adapted. I surveyed and measured the model so I could produce a 3D computer generated model, which they added to and uploaded to an iPad through an app.


“When viewed through the iPad a ‘marker’ under the model is recognised and the iPad overlays it. The viewer can walk around the model and when they tap on ‘hot spots’ pop-up images, information and movies will show up on the screen,” adds Conlon.

With one happy customer, Amalgam is now looking to offer AR to its other clients too whether it be to complement a physical model on an exhibition stand or for a stand alone model to demonstrate a process or procedure.

“Some clients are unsure. After all it is new technology and look at how unsure people were of 3D printing 20 years ago. But I see this personal device interactivity being a thing to watch out for; it’s certainly got the wow factor at the moment providing users with a lot more information about the model in an engaging way.”

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