Augmented reality brings 3D comic book to life

sutu app in action

This stunning comic comes to life thanks to innovative tech

After creating a sci-fi web comic, Nawlz, focused on Augmented Reality (AR) street culture, Stu Campbell aka Sutu had no idea it would result in some seriously impressive artistic innovations – including an entire AR comic and even a 3D tattoo that comes to life when viewed through a phone app!

We caught up with Sutu to discuss his project (make sure you also check out are article exploring what's next for augmented reality).

What inspired the project?

Lukasz Karluk, who was a fan of Nawlz at the time, messaged me to say 'we should try to make some AR effects like in Nawlz'. It turned out Lukasz was a great programmer so we started experimenting with AR.

First we hit the streets of Sydney with a data projector mounted on the back of a bike to bring some of my street art to life with projection mapping.

For this approach we created an app on the iPhone that recognises the street art and then calibrates the data projector to map an animation perfectly to it.

As the mapping is all happening inside the iPhone we realised the phone itself would be a cool tool to see hidden worlds. So the next step project was to imagine a story with a hidden world that could only be seen through the app.

What story did you create for the app?

sutu sketches

Sutu's original sketches for Modern Polaxis

Last year I did a kickstarter campaign to create an Augmented Reality comic book, Modern Polaxis. All 50 pages of the comic book come to life with animation and sound design, where the hidden AR story is quite different to the story on the printed page.

sutu coming to life

Sutu's comic book sketches coming to life with the help of the innovative app

The image you saw on the tattoo, of the man looking at his hands, is actually the original image from the street art project who then became the main character in the comic. The thing is, I wasn't expecting the tattoo of him to work, but when it did I was genuinely surprised.

What did you do to the tattoo for it to work in the app?

The AR tattoo is activated with the same app that is used for the comic. We created our own Boomcore framework (customised code) that recognises the image and then maps the animation to it.

Sutu tattoo

Sutu's own tattoo of his character coming to life with the help of the app! Check out his intagra @Sutueatsflies to see the animation

It was important that the tattoo could be seen by the iPhones camera. If the tattoo was to wrap around the body it would disappear out of sight of the camera, making it impossible to map the animation correctly.

Also our technology was designed to work on flat surfaces, so the moment you introduce contours it starts to look glitchy. So with that in mind, small patch size tattoos work best.

Have you done any more of these '3D' tattoos?

I'm currently collaborating with a group of artists and animators, including Ashley Wood, Twooone, Ghost Patrol and James Jirat Patradoon to create original AR artwork and customised tattoos. So far the results are looking pretty amazing. We're experimenting with hand drawn and computer animation and the creation of an AR tattoo that you can interact with.

We are planning to have an exhibition at Backwoods Gallery in Melbourne later on in the year. The exhibition will coincide with the release of our new AR app – which I can't tell you much about at the moment, except that it will give the public a new tool to experiment with AR for themselves.

sutu animation

Sutu's animation as seen through the app when held over his work

Download the app here and check out Modern Polaxis to see his work in action!

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