Augmented Christmas Cards

My Experience with Making a Usable Augmented Reality Concept

Hardware & Software

The main software I used to make the AR portion of the Christmas card was Adobe Aero, which is currently in Beta. Luckily all my devices were able to download the app. Aero has some restrictions on which devices can be used. The kinds of devices that support that app can be found on the Adobe Aero Learn & Support page.

3D Object Creation

With the use of Dimension, I was able to quickly create different 3D assets to go into a Christmas scene. Then I added some already built-in textures to give them personality. I created these as separate objects instead of building the whole scene together so I could have freedom to add actions to different objects in the scene when I put them into Aero.

Using basic shapes like spheres, cubes, pyramids, and cylinders, I created the snowman, tree, presents, and snowy scene seen here.

Building in Adobe Aero

Using the 3D objects I made, I made this scene in Adobe Aero using my iPhone. The only object in this scene I did not make was the star on top of the middle tree.

Image Anchoring

The next thing to do was to get the scene to anchor to an image that I would put onto a paper prototype of the Christmas card. By default, Aero maps AR scenes to horizontal plains. This can be changed to an image. After making an image an Anchor, I started to run into issues:

With Adobe Illustrator, I made a 2D version of the snowman and made it my anchoring image.

Struggles of Image Anchoring:

When I think of people reading a traditional Christmas Card, I think of them holding the card up with their hand viewing it at an angle. Because of this, I wanted the scene to be able to come out of the card, as though it was a digital pop out. Unfortunately, when I anchored the scene to this image, as I was testing it out, the scene was parallel to the image, viewing it as a horizontal plain, making my entire scene vertical.

The Paper Prototype

After my initial tests to make sure my scene worked, I started working on a paper prototype. The goal here was to test which combination of card type and size of snowman anchor image would produce the best results for what I am looking for.

Printed Snowman stickers that were different sizes to test the limits of size and card to scene ratio. The smallest snowman turned out to be the limit.
I made two kinds of cards in Illustrator: one folded sideways, and one folded down. I put on the QR code on the back of the cards with instructions.

Issues with the Paper Prototype:

When I initially created the QR code, I tested it, and it worked, but after I had the cards printed, it stopped working. After scanning the code, Aero would come up, and say that the session expired.

Results of the Paper Prototype Test

Sideways-folding Card

I found that the bigger the image anchor was, the bigger the scene would get, so the bigger snowmen actually didn’t work as well on the cards that folded sideways. The scene looked too big to fit in the card naturally, which has a fun effect, but it was not what I was looking for. I found that the smallest snowman image provided the best scene-to-card ratio, but the issue there is in order to get the scene to show up, you would have to bring the camera of the phone very close to the image anchor, which wasn’t the best experience in my opinion.

Down-folding Card

The best experience I felt was with the down-folding card. This version of card with the bigger version of the snowman seemed more comfortable to scan since the phone didn’t have to be so close to the paper, and the card was held in such a way that the scene was better viewed.

Testing with Users

I brought my cards to different people for them to try out. My parents were the first people to test the cards since they are among my main audience. What I found is that they were confused with how the instructions worked in the back, and I had to explain it to them. So I may need to change the way I’m giving out instructions.

My Next Iteration

The AR Scene

The AR Christmas Scene I had was nice, but didn’t have a lot of interactivity. My next goal with it is to have tappable actions on the Snowman and the presents. There was also a suggestion to have music play with the scene, so I’ll be wanting to add some music as well.

Physical Card

Now that I have tested card type and snowman-to-card ratio, I’ll be wanting to make a down-folding Christmas card with more designs, a nice note, and have it professionally printed on different kinds of paper to see if paper-type may affect scanning the image anchor. I also want to see if the extra designs would distract from the image anchor as well.

Future Implementation Ideas

In the future, I would also try this out with different AR experience builders like ZapWorks, which has more device support. The main issue with using Aero that I hope will be fixed after it comes out of beta is the device support. If I wanted to make AR Christmas Cards for my in-laws, they wouldn’t be able to view the AR part of it on their phones because their phones are not supported by Aero.

My Feelings on AR as a Whole

The AR scene currently, though fairly new, I feel will got places as more devices are outfitted with the technology needed to experience AR. People are always looking for new ways to experience the world at large, and with not only AR but the rise of VR as well, people can be able to experience things like they never have before. My experiences with how AR and VR have improved over the past five years is telling that they will only continue to improve, to hopefully, not become another Pokemon Go where people got really into it then fell away. I believe as there are more useful ways to use AR and VR, the more it will be used in general.

Thanks for Reading!

If you would like to check this out, here is the QR code and the image of the snowman so you can pull this up and view it for yourself!



I am a budding web and app designer who likes to learn new technologies, and use creative means to solve problems.

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Chelsea Hansen

I am a budding web and app designer who likes to learn new technologies, and use creative means to solve problems.