Pushing AR Forward with Animator Daniel Ma

Daniel Ma designing for MAAD

While we don’t have the flying cars and teleportation that many thought we’d possess in the early 2000’s, the Science Fiction aspects of our present day world are most certainly becoming more present. AR (augmented reality) is more prevalent whether it’s a part of viewing your favorite sports program on television or on a cell phone game/app. Major developments are occurring with AR in medical training, manufacturing, and education. There are strong indicators that before long customers will use AR during their shopping experiences at stores, with tourism/vacation experiences, and other previously unimaginable tasks. The groundbreakers of AR are professionals like Xiabo “Daniel” Ma, an animator who uses his skill to create and test the practicality & needs of AR. Ma recently was part of creating an AR installation known as MAAD (an acronym made up of the team members names who created it) which allowed users to experience AR and simultaneously supply feedback to the team about the experience. Human communication and AR are a major focus of the tech industry. Consider that Facebook recently acquired CTRL-Labs and is reportedly spending a billion dollars on a neural interface platform for Facebook Reality Labs in developing its AR and VR. Ma confirms, “AR is such a clear future, which is only limited by the hardware and our imagination, in my point of view. I realize that more and more world leading companies are going for AR development since it unlocks so much potential for information, entertaining, and many more utilities. I truly believe that an affordable AR device, implemented in people’s lives, will become the next “iPhone” and change the world eventually. The Hololens that we used in MAAD is promising but still has a way to go. But all this exploration is so exciting to me and what I can do in this new evolution is to try my best to create content for this platform. When the hardware is ready, it is going to need new storytelling, design, and interactive language for the new era. Being able to explore with AR in MAAD is a priceless experience and provokes so many ideas for us. Maybe animation in AR won’t be much of a difference eventually, but the use of animation, and what kind of animation will work best in AR is still a subject to research. I believe more and more hands-on experience will be beneficial in the long term and I’m looking forward to the day that AR is bringing the tides and changing our lives in a big way.”

Daniel experiencing AR at MAAD

  MADD blends the physical and virtual world in a puzzle solving experience to restore the Power of Transformation back to Earth. The guide for participants of MADD is Adam, the mysterious being who accompanies them on this quest and who was created by Daniel Ma. Upon entering the installation, participants first encounter Adam flying around this strange world as he collects gem-fruit in the air. He leads them to an unexpected tool that can save him and the world: a Rubik’s cube. There are elements of humor and dire moments within the adventure but most importantly, participants begin to blur the lines between what they accept as reality due to the intuitive and emotional nature of their interaction with Adam. Because so much of the interaction depends on the comfortability and trust humans invest in Adam, the responsibilities of Daniel were substantial. Furthermore, as AR expands into more common uses, the feedback obtained from MADD will inform decisions that are made as this technological advancement progresses and intersects with society. While being a part of such a burgeoning intersection of art and tech is exciting, Ma considers his conversation with people who attended MADD that is the most thrilling as he sates, “Hearing the feedback about Adam was the most exciting thing among the already rewarding final showcase. Getting to talk to people about a character that I created and hearing what they thought about it was such a great experience. The fact that people liked Adam and even wanted more interaction with it really encourages me to work harder to make it more appealing and attractive. Adam has so much potential when it comes to storytelling and I still use this character as my casual animation exercise.”

Writer: Coleman Haan

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