Council Journal would like to present the ninth episode of our Women in Business series, featuring Stephanie Leone.
Stephanie is a graphic designer and UI/UX designer who has changed the game when it comes to augmented reality.
The South African native created an outstanding AR app using patented technology that allows users to fully interact with the history around them.
A novel idea, Stephanie’s app was featured with the Driver’s Guide magazine, a publication that gives tourists all the information needed to travel around Ireland.
We spoke to Stephanie to get the low down on this fantastic creation.
Can you tell us how you came up with the idea for this augmented reality (AR) app? And what exactly is AR?
“Well augmented reality is basically seeing 3D objects in real life through your phone, so Snapchat would be an example of that in how it uses filters. We want to use this app to enhance the Driver’s Guide to let people go along Ireland without a tour guide and still learn all the history about the chosen area. They can simply go somewhere, look at the attraction, and then through the app they can learn all the history about it! It can also tell them what’s nearby in terms of great food and cool things to do in the area as well as hotels nearby.”
So when someone looks through the app, they can see the objects come to life and the history of that area?
“Yes! So for example, if I open the app, I want the person to see a menu with all the different routes available to them in the Driver’s Guide Magazine. If they were to choose to go from Dublin to Galway, they could go onto the app and select the route they want to take. On that route, they could see all of the attractions on the way. So they could visit Mullingar and see a cool attraction that’s in the area and learn about it. They can also interact with it using the app. If they visited the Hill of Tara, they could scan the information post and then be face to face with a 3D animated High King, or a historical figure would come out of there and dance or talk to them. It would also tell them where to go next for food, drink, entertainment and overnight stays.”
So let’s say we’re at the Hill of Tara and we scan the post and the High Kings of Ireland pop out, can we interact with them and will they speak with us?
“I’d like to be able to hear the character speak and come to life as well as creating 3D buttons in the actual space and not on your phone!”
How did you get started in AR? Where did that journey begin?
“I think I saw a magazine cover and as part of their marketing, their magazine cover came to life when you scanned it with their AR device. I remember thinking, ‘wow, that’s really cool,’ and wondering how I could do that too. At the time I was 21 or 22 years old, and I wasn’t sure exactly which career path I was looking at and I thought that AR could be a cool one. While I was looking around, I found the BMW AR app which is the coolest thing ever! If you download that app you can interact with their cars by opening the door and looking inside which is so cool.”
How do you see AR being used in the future and how much could it further us along as a species?
“I think that AR should be bigger than VR. This is simply because AR forces you to interact with your surroundings whereas VR closes you off from them. If you have AR, it’s non-stop possibilities. It’s literally like those Netflix things that you watch where you’re walking down the street and seeing pop-up ads everywhere, which isn’t what you actually want but that’s the idea is that you can interact with everything you see! It makes everything so much more memorable. I think they’re using it in medicine, they have it in food companies on their menus for kids, it can be used in so many ways.”
So really It adds another dimension to how we interact with media, pretty exciting for anyone working in that industry!
“Yes! When I first started getting into, they had predicted for Ireland to be the AR leader in the next few years. Now a few years have passed and Ireland isn’t that leader yet which is surprising but I think that might be covid related too.”
Can you tell us about the Drivers Guide app and how it came to be?
“Well I first started when I showed the idea to my boss Máirtín Breathnach and he said I could try it. So then I began watching lots of Youtube videos and tutorials, creating the first app like that. Once I had the first prototype going, he was very excited about it. So I finished a mini-app and published it on the android app store. Máirtín then contacted Enterprise Ireland about the app and they met with us and loved the idea.”
“They were so supportive of us and had us attend workshops to get the app developed and published. Máirtín connected with Ian from Matchbox Solutions who helped us find all the different people we would need to turn this prototype into a finished app; it’s a lot more complicated than I originally thought. I had just used Cinema 3D, a 3D modelling software and Unity3D which is a game development software, so technically my app is a game, being that it was not created with native code for iOS and Android, I just made one that would work on everything! Ian was helping us to get everything in order to get the app up and running.”
What were the obstacles that you faced?
“We attended three different workshops around the planning, the funding, and organising how we would distribute. There were companies there that were making physical products whereas we were creating a software product. It’s a bit more tricky in terms of getting payment, advertising and those things because it’s not an actual product. The Apple app store has a very strict assessment on your app. You have to meet the requirements or they won’t allow you to submit it a second time. You can appeal it once, but it’s very strict. Enterprise was very helpful in getting us published on the app store.”
What are your future plans?
“We have updated our branding and I would love to launch the app and the magazine all together, which I think will do really well.”
What would you say to your younger self or to another woman in business?
“To my younger self, I would say that there are many projects that you know you’re capable of. You could probably be really good at all of them but you need to pick one. Focus on that one and get it over the line because you get distracted and your interest changes a bit. Maybe just sit down and do a pros and cons list and then go for it! I’d say focus, focus is the main thing.”