AR talks | Marc Wakefield

Our next guest doesn’t really need an introduction to Facebook Camera Effects enthusiasts. Marc Wakefield – the founder and director of Augmented Reality Design Studio, experienced AR artist and one of the most recognizable Spark AR creators. We are super excited that he accepted our invitation and you’re also in for a treat. So let’s start the interview!

‘AR is the future of our interaction with the digital world’
Marc Wakefield

Hi Marc! For a starter, please give us some information about you and your work: for how long have you created AR, how many effects did you develop and for which brands?

I have been creating AR experiences for around six years now. I initially started by experimenting with Unity and the Vuforia SDK and image tracking technology. I immediately saw the potential of the technology and became really excited by its potential uses in all areas of everyday life! I got the opportunity to work with my brother Ross (Head of Design at a Retail Interior Design Firm) on a few pitch projects for his clients. This initially consisted of overlaying 3D models of Interior Design projects and concepts on top of proposed CAD plans / layouts with interactive elements. It transitioned into creating AR overlays for exhibition stands along with VR elements and 360 degree videos. One of the stands we worked on together won an award! 🙂

I have also created AR experiences for toy companies to augment some of their products and worked as an AR consultant for marketing agencies and other interior design firms.

I have created around 30 Facebook Camera Effects. In the early days, everything was under NDA or a white label service. (I get a lot of enquiries via messenger asking me to assist on projects) so there is a lot of work that I can’t publically claim. More recently I am doing way more direct client work and have completed three effects for Crypt TV and a recent effect for U2. I worked on the Big Shaq effect along with my brother (in addition to his Interior Design work, Ross is also spending a lot of time working with AR tech and tries to add elements in to a lot of his projects). I have also worked on effects for well known US TV programs, recently released movies and popular European brands. I am currently working on a few top secret projects for some huge brands but I can’t say anything yet! 🙂

In your post about transition from recruitment into AR, you claim that Facebook Camera Effects is the perfect platform for AR. Why is that?

The fact that the Facebook app is used by 2 billion normal people, of all different nationalities, genders and age ranges is one of the reasons that I believe it is the perfect place for these experiences. When I say ‘normal people’ I mean regular every day men, women and children who use the platform to communicate, share experiences and stay in touch with friends, family and colleagues. These people are not on the platform specifically looking for AR but it is there for all of them, only a swipe away! (Some of them are still completely unaware of the AR power in their hands!) They don’t need to download any additional app and they don’t need the latest phone to experience AR. Some people may discover these experiences by accident, some are seeing their friends posting interesting pictures and wondering how they changed their face or made a dinosaur appear in their living room! The shareability and usage numbers are one of the key points as well as the great work that the Facebook AR Product Team are doing to enable the effects to run on a wide range of hardware. This is allowing so many people to experience AR for the first time on their own terms as part of their day to day lives. It is seamlessly becoming the norm. This is easing the general public in to Augmented Reality so that it doesn’t seem weird, too techy or geeky. This will slowly prepare the wider population for lightweight AR smart glasses. (When they finally get here) 🙂

Awful Augmentations or Augmented Reality Design Solutions? What is the reason for such duality in branding?

Augmented Reality Design Solutions is now officially Augmented Reality Design Studio. It kind of does what it says on the tin. Before I got involved in Camera Effects, I was providing AR solutions for agencies and design firms that did not have AR experience or knowledge in house. It kind of made sense to use something generic and descriptive. Awful Augmentations was set up initially as a home for my own monstrous creations like my Creepy Clown effect. I love creating effects for clients and it is a great way to earn a living but I need to feed my creative urges by creating my own effects. I love the whole process and I honestly believe that creating my own stuff for enjoyment and experimentation makes me a better artist and developer. This definitely benefits my clients. I have been changing a few things behind the scenes (boring corporate company stuff) and I am working on a new website that will hopefully tie everything together in some way.

Is there any feature you wait most to come to AR Studio?

I am really looking forward to full body tracking as I think it will be a whole load of fun to create with. I am also looking forward to improvements in plane tracking as I would love to create walk-in portals / worlds / experiences.

Is there any effect you are particularly proud of? Could you share the story behind it?

The MacPhisto effect that I created for U2 is definitely one of the effects I am most proud of. It is still completely amazing to me that I created an effect that Bono used live on stage every night of an international stadium tour. It was a massive privilege to work on the effect and even more amazing that they wrote an article about me and the effect on the official U2 website.

The Creepy Clown is another effect that I am also really proud of. It is a pretty simple effect and didn’t take me too long to create as it all just flowed from my imagination and I made it up as I went along. There were no real technical hurdles involved in bringing him to life! For some reason people seem to really like using the effect. It has been shared millions of times, has hundreds of millions of impressions and has lead to a lot of business enquiries. It is crazy how far he has gone and I believe that a lot of his success is down to the popularity of the Photoshocked effect.

Because of the ease of use of SparkAR Studio, I was able to jump on to a viral trend (The Pam Dave Zarrings photos) to create Photoshocked in a really short amount of time. This got people using my other effects and really put Awful Augmentations on the map. My younger brother Ross has also published some really fun effects under the page too. I will be filling it with loads more monsters and weirdness too. I just need to make time in between client work and spending time with my family. 🙂

You believe that AR is going to change our world. How do you think it will happen and what was the most crazy idea for AR usage that crossed your mind?

I really do think that AR is going to change the world. It is the future of our interaction with the digital world. The ability to see an always-on constantly evolving, information filled layer of AR in a lightweight set of eyewear is one of the things that excites me most of all. It also concerns me too and makes me think of that scene in Star Wars where Darth Vader wants to see his son with his ‘own eyes’ before he dies.

‘As AR creators I believe we have a responsibility to create things that enrich our world and entertain users without detracting from the beauty of the real world and life itself.’

I have so many crazy ideas that it would be hard to pick just one. Some of the things that enter my head seem cool at first but when I think about them a little longer I realise that some things are definitely better left as ideas. I really love the idea of remixing reality. There are a lot of really cool effects out there but I dream of a time where we can create photorealistic AR that is nearly indistinguishable from reality. I really want to bring fantastic creatures to life and turn cats and dogs into dragons! 😉

As AR creators I believe we have a responsibility to create things that enrich our world and entertain users without detracting from the beauty of the real world and life itself. I can imagine a future where material possessions no longer hold any value and homes, streets, fields and shops are just blank canvases filled with digital representations of the things we used to treasure. As a father of three boys, I tend to think about their future a lot and where all of this could lead.

AR has the ability to break the barriers of our physical location. As it gets better, I have no doubt that we will use it to gain a real sense of presence as we collaborate with our friends and colleagues around the world. We will break language barriers and empower our children with educational and cultural experiences that have never been possible before. When used in the right way, AR has mind-blowing potential. It’s also a whole lot of fun!!

Thank you for your interesting remarks, Marc! It was great talking to you and getting to know your work and your views on AR a little better. W can’t wait for more of your effects!