Published: Feb 07, 2023

integrating AR experiences into a beautiful 10th anniversary book for Gardens by The Bay

Interactive elements bring the Gardens to life on readers’ devices

Gardens by the Bay capped its 10th Anniversary celebrations with the launch of a beautiful coffee table book. NCS is honoured to have enhanced the experience: designing and integrating a set of AR elements that allow people to immerse themselves through portals and bring still images to life.

The challenge:

NCS saw an opportunity to help Gardens by the Bay augment its 10th anniversary coffee-table book, giving readers an interactive experience “worthy of the world’s most-Instagrammed gardens”. Without impacting on the design or production of the book itself, we had a scant six months to distil scientific and technical terms and procedures into concise and entertaining 3D animations, and find a way to activate them without clunky AR markers or QR codes ruining the layout.

The solution:

Based on implementing an innovative AR-native CMS which can use virtually any image as a marker for almost any kind of content, NCS adopted an agile approach to AR design and production. This freed us up to take the book’s proposed content, work up AR elements independent of the book’s actual layout, and connect the two workstreams at the last minute. NCS’ design and tech teams could then propose and storyboard a range of AR experiences, allowing the Gardens’ steering committee to experience each AR element first-hand and decide which ones to include. The design effort was then distributed across the team with a “design council” peer-reviewing the work as a whole. Adopting an MVP mindset, NCS designers set a baseline for quality, took early and constant feedback from NCS tech team and the Gardens’ experts, then added features and polish with each iteration — key to getting stakeholder buy-in and setting the right expectations before heading into full rendering and coding.

Snapshot of capabilities:

The NCS team developed "A Blossoming City Garden AR" - an app which readers can download to scan photographic images in the book and immerse themselves in five different Garden experiences:

1) Step through a portal into the iconic Supertree Grove with a 360º view from the OCBC Skyway
2) Discover the five favourite flowers according to Gardens staff, and view them in 3D
3) Plant and grow a metres-high golden rain tree, and find out more about this rare species
4) Uncover the story behind the Gardens’ Orchid Hybridisation Programme, and
5) Fly with a kingfisher to explore the Gardens’ urban wetland

The impact:

The AR experiences elevated the Garden’s publication beyond the conventional coffee table book format. As Bryant Kok, Senior Director, Digital Transformation and IT, Gardens by the Bay, pointed out, “The world is increasingly going digital, which means that it's no longer just about the physical experience; it needs to be complemented with a digital experience to tell the story.”.

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