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    Brno Christmas Comes Alive: Augmented Reality from the Workshop of FI MUNI Animates Traditional Christmas Visuals

    In the spirit of last year's successful slogan, 'The 2nd Best Christmas in the World. Right after yours at home,' TIC BRNO is once again bringing a loaded program for the upcoming Advent. Included is a unique augmented reality (AR) experience, created in collaboration with the creative agency Aetna and the Studio of Graphic Design and Multimedia from the Faculty of Informatics, Masaryk University. This project represents pioneering technology in the Czech Republic.

    The visual style of the Brno Christmas enhances traditional motifs in an augmented form, while the delicate ornaments by Vendula Pucharová Kramářová reflect the homely atmosphere and gastronomic delights of the holiday season. Try scanning the QR codes on posters in the center of Brno, and in motion, you will see, for example, carp, Christmas bread, fruit, cookies, or pine needles. This year's Brno Christmas can be enjoyed in every aspect.


    Now, let's learn more about how the Christmas AR was created, directly from one of its creators, Mgr. art. Helena Lukášová, ArtD.


    Hello, Dr. Lukášová, congratulations on your success with the use of augmented reality at Brno Christmas. To start this brief interview, please introduce yourself and your colleague Takhmina Sadykova, with whom you collaborated. What are your roles in the Brno Christmas project?

    I am the head of the Studio of Graphic Design and Multimedia (AGD+M) at the Department of Visual Informatics of FI MUNI. I studied sculpture at the Academy of Fine Arts in Bratislava (VŠVU), and my interest is focused on the intersections of digital technologies and spatial creation. Takhmina is our graduate. During her studies, she excelled at 3D modeling, and her work had high artistic quality. We have now invited her to work externally at FI MUNI. She worked freelance and is now at the gaming studio Pixel Federation.

    For the augmented reality (AR) project for this year's Brno Christmas, I chose Takhmina for her high professionalism, and also because she communicates and works very well. Takhmina prepared 3D models based on the visual concept of Brno Christmas 2023, and I then created animations and prepared scenes for AR.


    Could you describe the unique experience that augmented reality offers to visitors of Brno Christmas and what interactive elements are included? Where can visitors to the Christmas markets find augmented reality? 

    AR includes four animated scenes that will be connected with four posters placed in the city center. In them, elements that appear on the posters come to life (note: ornaments associated with Christmas - Christmas bread, carp, fruit, cookies, pine needles, mistletoe, etc.).

    I have named them according to what happens in the animation: Astronomical Clock - elements parade and change size, Flipper or Pinball - fruit and cookies collide, Arcimboldo - a portrait is assembled from the elements, and UFO - where plates with tempting contents fly around.


    What was the main source of inspiration and goal in creating augmented reality for the visual of Brno Christmas, and what technologies were used for its realization?

    We naturally started from the brief. The visual itself suggested what all was possible. The solution chosen was Web AR, which users access through QR codes on Christmas posters around the city. The scenes thus load through a website, eliminating the need for an app installation. Therefore, this technology is more accessible to the public.


    What were the biggest challenges in integrating augmented reality into the Christmas visual, and how did you overcome these challenges?

    There were no problems in the realization phase, they may occur during Brno Christmas. It will be one giant user test. Various questions arise: How will the marker - part of the poster through glass - be detected? What impact will reflections have, or how readable will they be after dark?


    Do you think augmented reality can change the way the public perceives cultural events like Christmas? And what other applications of augmented reality could you imagine in the future for city festivals and events?

    The experience of Brno Christmas will not change, but perhaps literally expand. I think that AR is a technology that we will quickly get used to. Through the displayed content in AR, information can be communicated in various ways; descriptions, videos, interactive elements can be placed... I believe that for conveying information related to a particular environment, this technology is ideal. In AGD+M, AR has become the subject of several bachelor's theses, where students tested its use in various situations.

    Thank you for sharing the creation of this project to enhance the experiences at this year's Christmas markets in Brno. We believe that AR will find its place in other cultural events, not just in Brno.

    Don't forget to scan the QR codes and enter a world where Christmas comfort meets impressive technology. The experience of the Christmas markets, along with augmented reality, will also be supported by special musical jingles, which are also a novelty of this year's Christmas. Visit the Christmas city and discover the magic of this year's Brno Christmas from all angles... you have something to look forward to.

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