Aurasma functions based upon the concepts of Auras, which are comprised of a Trigger and up to 50 Overlays per Trigger. The Trigger is the image which is to be recognized and the Overlays are the actions that occur upon Trigger recognition. Aurasma has three sections – Discover, Assets and My Auras.
Discover is a list of Auras that have been created and put into the public domain. This includes some examples that Aurasma has made to kick things off.
Assets is a set of two collections – Triggers and Overlays. You can pre-load your Triggers and Overlays directly into the Asset area, or you can load them while you create your Auras.
My Auras is simply that – a collection of the Auras that you have created.
Creating an Aura is quite easy. After you log in, you simply click on “+ Create New Aura”. You are them prompted to upload the Trigger, which can be accomplished by a drag-and-drop, file upload or be selected from the existing images in the Asset Library. Aurasma will let you upload JPG, PNG and PDF files – however, beware that if you upload a PDF each page will create a unique Trigger and there is no “Undo” function for the upload.
If the image you upload doesn’t look like it will be easily recognized, you will be informed and get a suggestion to add masks to the image.
The purpose of masking is to allow you to focus in on specific parts of the Trigger for recognition if the Trigger doesn’t have good recognition characteristics. As the name implies, the Mask will remove selected areas from consideration during the recognition process.
One thing I do not like about the interface is that if you click on “My Auras”, at the top of the edit screen, while you are editing an Aura, nothing happens. My understanding of UI design has been that if a button doesn’t do anything, it should be either half-toned or hidden.
Once you are happy with the Trigger, click on the “Next” button and you get to start working on the Overlays. There are three types of overlays which you can create – Image, Video and 3D Model. The Image and Video options are intuitive with few limitations beyond the 100MB size boundary.
Adding Overlays of all types is done through a common dialog. You can either use a file browser to locate an Overlay on your system, or you can use items that are already in the Asset Library. Once an Overlay is uploaded, it is automatically added to the Asset Library.
The system automatically detects the Overlay type and adds relevant control fields, such as looping for Video. Oddly, the Overlay Editor will allow you to select and upload an Audio file, however, it bombs when trying to decode it.
Overlays are easily placed on top of the Trigger and you can control the location and size by dragging the Overlay, but you cannot rotate it. Be careful to hold down the Shift key when resizing if you want to maintain the aspect ratio.
I was easily able to create an image and video overlay that displayed flawlessly. I was, however, not successful in my attempt to create a 3D Overlay. Even though I followed their instructions regarding the creation of the 3D Overlay, upon uploading the Overlay I was presented a dialog indicating that the Overlay couldn’t be implemented, but with no clues as to why. Aurasma does have a Help entry with two user-supplied 3D Overlays, however, the domain name behind the links is dead. As dead-link checking should be a regular part of any Web site, this was a particularly disappointing problem. I did ask Aurasma if they had any stock 3D Overlays, however, my request was not responded to.
The Overlay editor has the usual positioning and previewing features, as well as a few that are uncommon.
The “Add Lock View” option can be used to ensure that the Overlays remain on screen once a scanned Trigger is removed from the field of view. I can’t say that I’m too thrilled with the behavior of the Lock View. The first problem is that when you use a Lock View, only the Overlays are displayed once you move away from the Trigger image. Second, regardless of how the Target was scanned, portrait or landscape, the Overlays are rotated to the Target orientation.
The “Preview” option gives you the ability to test scanning the image on-screen and ensure that all of your Overlays are positioned correctly.
The “3D View” option enables you to manipulate your Trigger and Overlays in 3D space. While this means little to the standard Image and Video Overlays, it can be a helpful tool when working with 3D models. The interface shows a series of keyboard shortcuts, but I was not able to get any of them to work.
The “Resize” button gives you the ability to “fit” and “stretch” Overlays, in addition to restoring the original aspect ratio of an Overlay, should it get lost.
The “Move” button gives you the ability to align Overlays to each other. While this function is common in most graphic tools, it is surprisingly rare for Easy AR CMS tools.
When you create more than one Overlay, you can arrange their layer by minimizing the property boxes and dragging them into the desired position.
I am not finding any way to change the names of the Overlays, so you will have to rely on the border color to ensure that the order is correct. Additionally, the display gives a clear indication of which Overlay is on top when the Overlays overlap.
An Overlay doesn’t just have to sit on the screen – it can do some interesting things. Actions can be added which respond to taps, double taps, Overlay fade in, Overlay start, Overlay finish and a time delay.
Aurasma has a reasonable list of available Actions for Overlays:
- Start an Overlay
- Stop an Overlay
- Pause an Overlay
- Make the Overlay full screen
- Make the Overlay full screen and activate camera
- Take Overlay off full screen
- Perform an allowed action, randomly selected from a defined set of actions
The various Events and Actions are well explained in Aurasma’s on-line help.
Additionally, Aurasma has the concept of Hotspots. Hotspots have many uses:
- Create tap-able areas on a video or image by placing Hotspots containing Actions over certain areas.
- Trigger specific areas of your Aura to be made full screen by using a Hotspot as the Trigger of a full screen Action.
- Use Hotspots to carry individual/groups of Actions to help automate parts of your Aura.
- Use one to block taps on other Overlays – if you have a menu and want to disable it while another Overlay plays in the foreground, you can insert a Hotspot above the menu (change its proportions to cover it) but below the playing video in the right-hand Overlay list.
Aurasma currently has three ways of gaining access to their Preview function. Once the Aura is defined, it can be quickly and easily previewed from the screen by selecting the Aura and then clicking on the “Full Screen” button on the top left of the image. Additionally, while in the editor you can click either the Preview button under the image or the Preview button at the top right of the editor. All three access methods give you the same results.
The Aurasma Scanner worked very well. It recognized images very quickly, however, was confused when moving between the Tree images. The scanning is initiated by tapping on a purple square at the bottom of the display and does not time out. One nice touch is that the while scanning, a circle of dots is displayed that “bounce” in and out, giving a clear “scanning state”.
No reporting options available on the version tested. Aurasma states that in paid versions of their tool, they support the following reporting capabilities:
- Quick-view scorecards: clicks, duration, and views.
- Deep Insights analytics for views (views & unique views) line graph;
- Click-thrus, by URL, stacked bar graph;
- Overlays viewed, by overlay name, stacked bar graph;
- Time spent, mean time, max time, min time;
- Views by Region, world and US stages map.
- Can select date range, individual auras, campaigns, and save views for analysis.
The good news is that there is precious little that can go wrong in Aurasma. Aside from the already mentioned error message on uploading the 3D image, there is the question of “What happens when the button’s URL is bad?” Nothing, unfortunately. Not only does the URL not have a default value to show you the right format, it requires the prefix “http://” and does not throw an error message when this is missing.
Demo Account Limitations
Advanced Actions and Web Overlays are available as extended upgrade features. I was not able to find anything in the Help file which indicated which actions were in the Advanced Actions set and I was also not able to find a description of what a Web Overlay was. From the Help information, I assume that a Web Overlay would be a frame that contains a web site.
No pricing information was available on the Aurasma web site at the time of this review.
What’s to like
- The Aurasma interface is quick and clean.
- Their on-line Help facilities appear to be very complete, even if they have the occasional dead-link.
- Media Library directly accessible
- Overlay editor has some unique capabilities, such as aligning Overlays and restoring aspect ratios
- Rapid and reliable recognition of images, unless moving between Tree images
What’s not to like
- Poor error handling on the 3D Overlays
- Poor error handling for invalid URLs
- No scan quality indicator
- Converted City and Tree images from Portrait to Landscape
- Android Scanner app didn’t recognise Pumpkin and had a difficult time recognising Cat.
- Unable to rotate Overlays
- Scanner has to restart to recognise changes to previously scanned content
- Pricing information not available on Aurasma web site