The Lost Museum (AR)

For our AR assignment I wanted to create an a virtual museum which contained animated recreations of all of the creatures that were officially declared extinct in 2020. Using the Red List, I picked the “Lost Shark” (Carcharhinus obsolerus) as my first animation, a fitting mascot for my museum given the name. Here is the link to the filter to test on your phone.

EDIT (4/15/2021): Here’s a new link with the text effect added – though I cannot confirm if it works well.

We typically associate natural history museums as a place of education, and to preserve what’s left of the old and the often forgotten. An AR museum dedicated to those recently lost serves as a memorial but also can also serve as an educational tool, with the hopes of giving some life to animals and plants that are vanishing every year due to habitat loss, global warming, and hunting.

These creatures will never make it to a museum because for many of them, such as the lost shark, we don’t have a vivid record of their existence to begin with. We have sketches and photographs of preserved flesh, but nothing that gives this shark any life.

While this project served as a bit of a demo for me, my overall goal would be to have a robust AR application where you can walk around and find stickers or tokens on walls in various museums where you can interact with them using your phone and see these creatures in motion, along with information about them.

In Spark AR, I used a fixed Target Tracker to track an image that would serve as my “sticker” or in this case, a flier for the museum:

With that I created an animation sequence in Maya of the lost shark swimming around, and I found some coral and plant-life on Sketchfab to help add more color to the scene, along with some of my own plant models. I was disappointed with the photorealistic shaders in Spark AR, so I tried some toon shaders in Maya and went for a more graphic visual effect in Spark AR – it ended up visually looking much better.

Here’s a video of the filter working. I had A LOT of trouble with this assignment. My animation would not export properly out of Maya and it took me 2-3 days of troubleshooting before I was finally able to get it to import. I forgot to delete the deformer history of my shark mesh before I bound it to the rig – it works fine in Maya but in any other program the and the mesh were broken apart.

After that I was struggling to get the image tracker to work. I eventually got it working, but the animation loads really slowly. I’m fairly certain I can optimize the mesh more and remove some assets that might be slowing it down. I’m also curious if my tracker image has something to do with it.

I originally had a option to show text on the screen if you tap it, which would allow you to read up on the shark but for some reason it never worked when I tested it out and I removed it. I think that all goes back to me needing to optimize the scene so that it runs faster.

The text I wanted to insert is below if you’re curious to learn about this shark:

The “Lost shark” (Carcharhinus obsolerus), previously known as the false small tail shark was only formally discovered in 2019, based on decades-old specimens. But there have been no recent sightings and it has not shown up in five targeted surveys, prompting the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) to list it as “Extinct” in 2020. It is widely believed that the disappearance of this species was caused by over-fishing.

Sharks have historically proven to be robust, surviving on the planet for hundreds of millions of years, even persisting through mass extinction events such as the asteroid strike believed to have wiped out most dinosaurs.

Dr. Will White, an Ichthyologist at CSIRO’s Australian National Fish Collection who named the “Lost shark” said this might be the first shark extinction in human times.

“Unfortunately what makes a species a great survivor in the natural equate to making them great survivors against man,” White told Reuters.