Augmenting Heinz Field is a collection of augmented reality experience inside the FedEx Great Hall in Heinz Field located in Pittsburgh, PA. The experience is designed to augment various Steelers memorabilia that are showcased in the stadium with dynamic content that fans can access through their smartphones using the official Steelers application on iOS and Android platforms. Fans can interact with real-world artifacts and learn about the team’s important historical journey, moments and achievements.
The Steelers Super Bowl Augmented Reality experience was created by YinzCam, Inc. (YinzCam) along with Pittsburgh Steelers and their digital content team. It aimed to explore how new, immersive technologies can be used in the sports industry to deliver engaging fan experience. The Steelers wanted to leverage their mobile app to elevate the fan experience by using a smartphone to interact with the real world. Over the past two seasons, the Steelers and YinzCam have added three different augmented reality experiences for their fans inside their official mobile application. These experiences use the latest advancement in the field of augmented reality, gaming, and mobile technology.
My primary role on the project was that of an AR developer.
The FedEx Great Hall is home to six huge statues of the Lombardi Trophy representing each of the six Super Bowls that the Steelers have won. Each statue encases artifacts from that particular Super Bowl along with a replica Lombardi Trophy. With the new augmented reality experience, fans can scan a plaque that acts as the marker to trigger the experience. Upon scan, the fans see a virtual trophy that is overlayed on top of the statue. This virtual trophy includes the score and team logos engraved on the sides of the trophy as well as highlight videos from that respective Super Bowl. Once the augmented reality experience is triggered, fans can physically walk around the trophy to explore more content.
Video of the experience:
The development process started with concept exploration and gathering requirements. Wireframing and prototyping to perform quick test and do some playtesting to make sure we can achieve the best user experience.
The experience was built as a standalone application and then integrated into the main club app, went through an exhaustive QA process where we tested on various different devices and then submitted to the play store and app store.
Building the 3D world:
We created a 3D model of the lombardi trophy along with 4k textures for the trophy’s material. Since Pittsburgh Steelers won six super bowl, there were six virtual trophies in the AR space. Same model was used for all the trophies only the textures were changed.
There are videos on each side of the super bowl trophy. The videos were streamed and showcased the highlight from that particular superbowl. Each video has a plaque that has the description that goes along with the video.
This particular feature was built using the Unity game engine. Unity’s AR Foundation framework was used for the Super Bowl experience. These experiences were then exported from Unity and integrated into the official Steelers app. This allowed fans to access the features without downloading another application. These experiences were supported on devices with iOS 11 and above with A9 chip and above and Android devices that support ARCore. Since these experiences were deployed via their respective app stores, the system was designed in such a way that the content and assets are downloaded from the server as opposed to being hardcoded into the apps. This gave the Steelers digital content team flexibility and control of the content that the fans can see without the need for an app update. To account for the 100 Mb application size limit imposed by the Google Play Store, all of the textures and models were optimized prior to integration.