I wanted to create something memorable to commemorate my stellar experience at the MIT Media Lab. Originally, my intention was to create a projection mapped mortarboard, because my group at the lab, Object-Based Media, does projects revolving around storytelling at the intersection of the digital and physical.
One of my favorite projection mapping projects out there is Lightform Inc. which is a company that makes projection mapping much more accessible for digital artists and creators. My cap design took direct inspiration from one of their most popular pieces "It's Lit".
However, reality got in the way, because ultimately, I wasn't going to be building a rig to project onto my cap, especially because graduation is an outdoor affair. I thought I would use this as an opportunity to explore some popular augmented reality tools, Vuforia and Artivive.
Additionally, I wanted to create some gifts for my mentors, family and friends as my experience in life so far is all owed to them for their support and encouragement at all stages. Below, you can see the vinyl cutting process for the acrylic quotes I'd be giving away as gifts. I know, the quote is quite cliché but to my suprise and delight, the "moon and stars" motif came up several times at this year's commencement as it's the 50th anniversary of the 1969 moon landing.
Graphic Design / Vinyl CuttingThe first stage of this project was to create the base images and animated media to overlay onto the cap and gifts. I created the design in photoshop and illustrator, separating each of the vinyl cut colors (black, white and holographic) into separate layers. There are definitely easter eggs in the cap design... let me know if you find them! I exported the layers as DXF files and vinyl cut the designs in the Media Lab machine shop. As a side note, holographic vinyl is so pretty - I want it on everything.
Animation I decided to animate my cap in Unity because I wanted to use scripting for at least the star and the wave elements, and that was the environment I was most familiar with. I actually went though a fairly tedious process of exporting each individual element that changes color from illustrator into a Unity texture and material. I wrote a script in Unity to create the textures and materials from file because there are over 200 individually controllable layers in this piece. As for how I animated each of the layers, I used a naming scheme for each of the layers that allowed me to intuitively index each element by row, column and ID. I tested out a bunch of fun animations, but ultimately settled on sprinking sine waves all over my code.
AR Tracking For the Augmented Reality tracking, I originally intended to use Vuforia which looked beautiful on my laptop, however, once I exported for mobile, everything became distractingly laggy, so I searched for an alternative solution. To my delight, Artivive was perfect for my purposes. It's an online tool that lets its users upload a photo or rendering of an art piece and then overlay (including transparency) video files on top of the design. The process was so quick and painless, and in minutes, I had my design tracking beautifully to my graduation cap and gifts. I think Artivive is built off ARKit, and I'm looking forward to doing more experiments on my own with that tool.