When the Ahmedabad based Designmate Pvt Ltd. started putting together the first blocks of its augmented reality (AR) app journey in April last year, it probably wouldn’t have dreamt of the immense success they have had in this short space of time on the Apple App Store. The company’s first AR app Froggipedia rolled out in April last year, and it was presented at the Apple Keynote Education event in Chicago. The idea was simple—use the augmented reality tools that Apple ARKit provides, to allow children to interactively understand the life cycle of a frog, such as how it turns from a single celled egg in water to a tadpole which in turn metamorphoses into a froglet and eventually a full grown frog. Then there is the ability to dissect and observe the complex structure of its various organ systems of a frog, on your iPad, with the Apple Pencil, for instance. The stuff of biology labs in schools, is now an augmented reality on our cutting edge tablets.
“By September, we launched our second app, Brainapse which was the 1st Indian app to have released globally alongside the launch of iOS12. By October, we launched our 3rd app, Plantale which was showcased at the Apple Keynote Event in New York,” says KJS Brar, CEO, Designmate Pvt. Ltd. It was at this Keynote Event that Apple unleashed the newest A12X bionic chip and used the company’s Plantale app to showcase the AR prowess of the new hardware. By the end of the year, Froggipedia became the iPad App of the Year, which makes it the only Asian app to have received this honor.
Brainapse is perhaps the most interesting app in Designmate’s arsenal. Using AR, you can explore the external and internal part of our skull, brain, the different types of brain cells and the five senses communicate with the brain. “Brainapse has had thousands of downloads. The app is being used globally by a lot of medical students, schools and we also got feedback from doctors at Zydus Hospital, Ahmedabad who were stunned with the contents of the app,” says KJS Brar.
After the success of the very immersive Froggipedia and Plantale, what was the thinking behind Brainapse? Three very diverse topics, after all. “We actually started making Brainapse alongside Plantale. The idea was to take something so complicated like the brain and make it easy and enjoyable to learn,” says KJS Brar, before adding, “the brain is a complete world in itself and being so complex it gets a little difficult to comprehend; but we had ideas of building a story on the evolution of brain and its intricate anatomy right to its cells. AR gave us the possibility of showing these things with a lot of ease and with rich visuals making it more engaging and packed with information.”
While Designmate were developing Brainapse, Apple released ARKit 2.0 for developers. With this, Apple introduced the new USDZ file format that optimized AR content for sharing and also improved face as well as 3D object detection. Since the development of Brainapse was already under way, Designmate was left with two options—either scrap all the hard work they had done and start afresh, or bolt on a new layer of content that utilized ARKit 2.0. They chose the latter, as an interactive game.
Would the brilliance of Froggipedia, Plantale and Brainapse be possible without augmented reality? “First, the power ARKit holds is tremendous. The experience of augmenting something in itself is very superior and because of this we were able to think of developing something as vast as brain. The overall chips with metal technology gave us the scope for rich and preferred graphics which we were finally able to achieve,” says KJS Brar. He also believes there is no secret sauce to make a great AR experience, except the ability to think creatively.
Perhaps the most interesting thing about Designmate is the fact that 70 percent of its 400 strong workforce is differently abled. That surely has not restricted the creativity, which has been the strong foundation Froggipedia, Plantale and Brainapse have been built on. As we head into the 2019 edition of the Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC), there is expectation that Apple will focus significantly on making the AR experiences more powerful than ever before, and put even more tools into the hands of developers to build immersive experiences for phones and tablets.