Live action and integrated directorial talent Jason Zada of Tool has led yet another unique site execution - this time for online broker hotels.com - that provides a unique way to explore some of the most popular cities the company operates in. The website, built in conjunction with Y&R Chicago and marked with exceptionally high production value, stars the campaign's existing Claymation character, "Smart" - voiced by comedian Ed Helms - operating in a colorful augmented reality that is a deviation from traditional augmented sites that do not offer direct interaction with a character. While the site is in many ways an exceptional technological achievement, it is Zada's visual storytelling that truly sets it apart from other augmented reality projects, as he applies the same storytelling point of view from live-action projects to the interactive realm.
The technologically ambitious project leverages every computer feature from webcams to microphones to synthesize the various interactive components, extending Smart's universe to allow people to explore top US-based destinations. The AR site allows the user to add a layer of content over what they see onscreen. They simply print out a "marker" on a piece of paper and then hold it up to their webcam, which causes a 3D model of their city of choice to appear.
The result is a fun, informative adventure that provides customers with a plethora of useful information as they book their trip. As the user navigates the site, Smart guides them through each city's unique interactions: they can modify the Hollywood sign with their name by typing it into an on-screen box, whistle a tune on Bourbon Street with the microphone detection feature, or modify any other Claymation city on the list. The site also provides weather, local event information, and deals for each city.
"This idea grew out of a series of TV spots starring Smart. Y&R wanted to extend this into the online world, so they approached Jason," noted Tool Digital EP Dustin Callif. "He's rapidly gaining a reputation for creating entertaining live action campaigns, yet still loves to play in the interactive sandbox. This is the kind of innovative work that not just Jason, but everyone at Tool strives to create."
Zada conceived the site and helped execute the campaign, pushing the capabilities of the various forms of technology that he integrated into the site and architecting the optimal way to do the playback. He treated the project as if it were an interactive animated film, playing a large role in the production of a music soundtrack and the sound design. The result is a superb balance of the concurrent playback of video, 3D and augmented reality that tells a fun, simple and surprising story. Tool also advised the voiceover lines using Helms as the voice of Smart.