Updated on
May 22, 2024

The Great American Eclipse of 2017 is a once-in-a-lifetime chance for many to see a straight-up-full-on TOTAL solar eclipse. This rare eclipse will be viewable by 16.5 million Americans in its path, which leaves over 306.6 million very sad Americans unable to experience it.

When we got word of this impending tragedy we knew we had to do something. But how do we bring this astronomical phenomenon to ALL of America? By harnessing the hottest tech trend since the Power Glove, Augmented Reality (and America’s favorite donuts).

Humble brag alert: Adweek showed us some love. Adage approved as well.

Building a Better Moon

If you’re gonna create a legit total solar eclipse, you’re gonna need a legit Moon. We immediately began designing our own Moon which, of course, we modeled after DD’s very own Munchkins. Thus the “Moonchkin” was born.

Weighing in at an insulin erupting 8,212,017 calories, this is the largest virtual ball of fried sugar dough the Earth has every seen. Once our Moonchkin model was built we spent countless hours painstakingly recreating the exact texture of a Glazed Chocolate Cake Munchkin. If you look closely you’ll notice the natural occurring features such as the Planitia Latte and the Sea of Tasty Tranquility.

Chocolate Cake UV Map

Chocolate Cake Normal Map

Chocolate Cake Height Map

FInal Moonchkin Model with all Maps applied

Augmented Reality

With our Moonchkin ready we needed a way to move it in front of the sun to create a total solar eclipse on-demand. What better way to manipulate reality than with Augmented Reality (AR).

We integrated our Moonchkin into Unity3D which allows us to code the logic that positions the Moonchkin in 3D space.

To initially position the Moonchkin over the sun we use the phone’s GPS position and compass, we then cross-reference the star maps API to get an estimate on the sun’s current position in the sky. After that, the app instantiates a camera video stream which allows us to process and pinpoint the epicenter of the brightest spot in each video frame; the sun. With those coordinates locked in, Unity can transition the final position the Moonchkin exactly over the sun creating your very own total solar eclipse. Anytime, anywhere.

Next Generation Augmented Reality

Now, generally we use Vuforia for our AR experiments and this was no exception. However, if you own a newer iPhone you’ll be in for quite a treat this fall.

Earlier this year at WWDC, Apple announced their plans for Augmented Reality dominance with the inclusion of ARKit in the upcoming iOS 11 rollout this Fall. ARKit’s capabilities have been praised by the tech community and it’s not even available to the public yet. Wanting to assess it’s capabilities, we contacted the Apple Corporation and were miraculously given insider access to the developer preview of ARKit.

To say the least, its capabilities were beyond our expectations and is the version you probably saw in our demo video. Near zero latency tracking, dynamic lighting, realistic scaling, world tracking, and the native plane detection turned out to perfectly move our Moonchkin in front of the sun.

What’s Next?

Well that wraps up the Moonchkin but that’s not the end! Take care and remember, don’t stare at the eclipse with counterfeit eclipse glasses or your bare naked eyeballs.

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