Custom Tattoo Launches Interactive Sonic The Hedgehog AR Experience

A man in Mexico City turns his first tattoo into a trigger for a prototype AR game. 

The impact of AR technology on our daily lives gets greater and greater each day as it finds its place in how we learn, how we perform our jobs, purchase items on the internet, home repairs, stay connected with friends, and entertain ourselves. The technology has even found its way into the tattoo industry, offering a new form of body art brought to life using smart devices.

Recently, one designer took the idea a step further with an interactive AR tattoo based on one of gaming’s most beloved franchises. Olo Sabandija, a graphic design artists with limited knowledge of AR development, sat through almost 20 different YouTube tutorial videos to learn how to create a unique and super fun Sonic the Hedgehog AR scene that uses his freshly-inked forearm tattoo as the trigger.

From a video posted on Sabandija’s Twitter, you can see his forearm with an AR scene from Sonic the Hedgehog pinned over a freshly ink’d NES controller tattoo, complete with animations and that familiar, peppy soundtrack you know you love.

In an interview with VRScout, Sabandija talked about how he made it all come together saying, “I’ve wanted a tattoo since I was 15 years old, and I’ve wanted it to be an AR tattoo for the past 8 years. But every year would pass and nothing ever happened.”

Sabandija says his hesitation came from the fact that a tattoo was permanent, and he didn’t want to commit to a design he’d ultimately regret. However, after attending a tattoo convention and seeing a friend with a tattoo that launched an AR image of a jumping and dancing Hestu from The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild – he was motivated to make it happen.

To help him stick to his tattoo dreams, Sabandija set a deadline. “I wanted to have some ink before I turned 40 – at the time – I had several months to plan everything. Choosing an image to get ink’d on my arm, build the Sonic AR scene, and then make it happen, all before my birthday at the end of November.”

Choosing a tattoo design was actually a difficult task.  Sabandija originally envisioned a SEGA controller as the marker. Unfortunately, classic SEGA controllers featured rounded edges, which made it nearly impossible to create an AR marker.  The solution for Sabandija was to switch gears and go with the more iconic Nintendo controller. According to Sabandija, the design of the classic NES controller makes for a perfect marker due to its right angles and straight lines.

As for creating Sonic in AR, Sabandija looked to the internet for guidance in building his augmented diorama. “I basically learned the basics of Unity by watching more than 20 YouTube videos,” said Sabandija, adding, “I’d work about 6 to 8 hours a day for almost a month to build my Sonic scene.”

Sabandija worked with Unity to create his AR image and Vuforia to launch the digital content on his Android device. When asked about why he chose to not use ARCore, Sabandija laughed and said, “I have an older phone.” Respect.

Once Sabandija built his Sonic the Hedgehog AR scene, he headed over to Orion Tattoo in Mexico City where tattoo artist Ng Blackeye gave Sabandija his very first ink.

From there, Sabandija brought it all together and then showed his friends what his new tattoo could do. He excitingly talks about how his friends were blown away and even thought it was a fully playable level.

Unfortunately, you can’t actually play a level of Sonic the Hedgehog, but the tattoo is interactive. When one of the buttons on Sabandija’s tattoo is covered, the smartphone sees that as ‘pushing,’ and triggers a jump animation from Sonic. Sabandija states he’s a few tutorial away from a fully-playable, giving hope that we may one day see a more in-depth tattoo-based AR gaming experience.

If you’re interested in learning more about interactive AR tattoos yourself, you can reach out to Sabandija through his website. Of course you can always create your own interactive AR experience if you have the knowledge and a compatible tattoo design.

Image Credit: Olo Sabandija

About the Scout

Bobby Carlton

Hello, my name is Bobby Carlton. When I'm not exploring the world of immersive technology, I'm writing rock songs about lost love. I'd also like to mention that I can do 25 push-ups in a row.

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