svo | xep, 08. August 2022

Set up a liquid handler in your lab with AR

Augmented reality makes it possible: Thanks to this technology, potential customers on the other side of the world can experience the real dimensions of an object in their environment. They can try out where they want to place it - and whether it will even find enough space. The Hamilton company commissioned us with the implementation of a device called Long String VANTAGE in AR.

Hamilton has various company locations in the USA and Switzerland. The company is active in medical technology. It manufactures solutions for the handling of liquids. Among other things, this involves apparatus for automated "liquid handling," primarily for examining a wide variety of samples. It was Hamilton equipment that made possible blood test for aids and hepatitis.

Smartphones and tablets as AR facilitators

Our mandate was to modify existing 3D data from a Hamilton device to be suitable for real-time display in AR applications. The prerequisite was that the respective users should not have to load an additional application onto their mobile device to view the model. Instead, the display of augmented reality content should be started directly from the web browser to project the device into the user's environment. In the future, this should help potential Hamilton customers imagine the device's dimensions and place it in their labs.

The solution is provided by the two 3D scene formats UDSZ (Apple) and glTF (Android). They form a kind of basic 3D format, similar to what the JPEG document is for images. These formats can be displayed in modern browsers without detours and used for techniques such as augmented reality.

Detailed yet resource-efficient for the browser

The biggest challenge for our 3D artist was to reduce the model and thus both the amount of data and the performance hunger without sacrificing detail. According to Google, the limit for corresponding applications is 70,000 polygons and a file size of 20 MB. The source material consisted of about 6.5 million polygons.

To make the 3D model displayable for AR in the browser, our 3D artist rebuilt complex geometries in a simplified form and deleted invisible and, thus, unnecessary elements. From more complex parts, which had to be preserved because they are characteristic of the appearance of the device, he created renderings, which were then projected back onto simple geometries. These processes aimed to achieve maximum detail in the most straightforward possible grid.

With UV unwrapping from 2D correctly to 3D

Then our 3D artist created UV maps of the model parts by UV unwrapping. You can imagine this as making a craft sheet out of a three-dimensional object, i.e., unfolding the elements of the object to flat and transferring them from 3D to 2D. UV unwrapping assigns the object's surfaces to the polygons' right sides.

Challenge: Displaying transparent objects

Another challenge was that the main operating systems, Android (Google) and iOS (Apple), use 3D frameworks that handle transparency differently. Hamilton Long String VANTAGE has a case made of glass. Our 3D artist, therefore, had to find a solution for the elements behind the glass to be displayed correctly on the two operating systems.

Using AR to create realistic 3D representations in your own space

The result is a perfect replica of the Long String VANTAGE. Hamilton told us that the AR app worked well, and everyone was excited. Customers can use it to test whether the Hamilton Long String VANTAGE will fit in their lab without any measuring.

Honestly, we on the AWE team had a lot of fun placing the 3D visualization of the device on our desks, next to the microwave in the kitchen, in the meeteingroom, or wherever, rotating it and looking at it from all angles.

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