Factory 42 is a multi-award winning immersive content and experience studio on a mission to reimagine entertainment. The studio employs technical minds and talents from the worlds of film, television, games and performance, with career credits including movies such as The Avengers, Harry Potter, The Hobbit, Fight Club and The Matrix, BAFTA-winning TV shows, AAA video games and award-winning theater productions.
Using its team’s expertise across creative and technological disciplines, the studio pushes the boundaries of storytelling and takes consumers to new worlds of enhanced reality. Its projects focus on developing a multisensory and interactive approach to narrative and experiences that engage people’s emotions by creating presence and empathy.
“Easily deploying cross-platform versions of our apps was crucial in speeding up the development and publishing process, enabling us to deliver two apps on very tight deadlines.”
Unity across the lifecycle
As a cross-platform game engine, Unity enables creators to develop and deliver multifaceted immersive experiences that mix physical and digital worlds across the XR spectrum. All of Factory 42’s creative departments use Unity on a daily basis, from design through art to code.
Bringing XR projects to life
Discover some of Factory 42’s recent Unity projects:
- Dimension X: Dinosaurs and Robots is a first-of-its-kind short mixed reality location-based experience designed to bring dinosaurs and robots to life on Magic Leap headsets and in a shopping mall environment
- My Dino Mission AR enables 7- to 10-year-olds to help a stranded dinosaur get back to its own time period many millions of years ago
- My Robot Mission AR is a new skills-building app that encourages 10- to 12-year-olds to think like a scientist
Young explorers can care for and capture fun photos of their new dinosaur friend in the backdrop of their home or backyard.
A second collaboration, with the UK’s Science Museum Group, resulted in My Robot Mission AR. Combining fun challenges with AR, players create robots ready to operate in simulated environments, test their new robots, and practice problem-solving skills.
Both apps were created by 42 Kids, a new kids division of Factory 42, and are available on the App Store and Google Play.
New experiences in new ways
In response to regional lockdowns and closures of public spaces, museums were forced to explore digital, home-based alternatives to location-based experiences that were originally due to premiere across 2020.
These apps were a result of the Boundless Creativity programs, a major new campaign created and supported by UKRI’s Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Bringing people together
To increase families’ engagement with fun science-based (and engineering-based) learning at home, Factory 42 wanted a tool that would enable highly fluid, intuitive user experiences. Unity enabled a world-class creative team from a range of industries (VFX, gaming, XR) to collaborate and give audiences stunning visual quality in the form of mobile AR apps.
Discovering science through fun
“Unity MARS was key to allowing our experience to have an awareness of the players’ physical environment, and then to seamlessly integrate our digital content into that space.”
Special for users, pioneering for partners
Three specific elements ensure both apps fly: cutting-edge technology, cultural and scientific expertise, and elevated playfulness to help users “learn by doing.”
For My Robot Mission AR, using ARCore and ARKit allowed the studio to innovate on top of Unity’s world-class built-in physics engine to model movement in a realistic way.
For My Dino Mission AR, Unity MARS allowed the app to understand the location, and dimensions, of flat surfaces in a user’s space. With this “understanding,” the virtual dinosaur can react to the surroundings, only sitting or walking on surfaces of a suitable size.
The iOS version also uses the cutting-edge 3D body tracking feature of ARKit 4, which means the dinosaur can react to a human in the room. “If a person using the app crouches down or holds out a hand, the dinosaur will react to these gestures and move towards the person,” says Mr. Stewart.
Cultural and scientific expertise
Input from the Science Museum informed the real-world environments and physics of robots, while experts at the Natural History Museum informed the behavior of dinosaurs, ensuring scientific accuracy and an experience full of interesting and often surprising facts. In tune with the latest scientific advances, the app is based on a dinosaur species whose discovery was only announced in 2014.
Learning by playing
Factory 42 game designers consulted with specialists in learning through digital games to develop these apps that enable children to think like a scientist. Narrated by popular science presenters Maddie Moate and Greg Foot, the apps feature AR worlds where kids hone skills such as problem solving and trial and error, and come to better understand scientific processes.
Extending the toolkit
Factory 42 has integrated several other tools into their production pipeline, from Houdini and Maya to Blender and ZBrush. To help them add the dimension of augmented reality production, the studio took advantage of online Unity training, participating in the Audiences of the Future sessions delivered by Unity experts.
“Unity helped us deliver two apps, on tight deadlines, and enabled us to put amazing immersive experiences into the hands of children during a tough time in everyone’s lives.”