The 2050 Project: Quartz + SeeBoundless


The Perfect R&D Partnership

In December of 2017, John Keefe a Bot Developer and Product Manager at Quartz, approached SeeBoundless with a simple question...

"What can we do with photogrammetry and AR?"


We immediately began to dig into our story bank and build concepts for what an AR news product could look like. SeeBoundless founder, Steve Johnson, had 10 locations built out in less than a day and we were off to figure out how to photograph, scan, stitch and build AR models from just an iPhone and a consumer drone.

The goal was to make a product using tools available to newsrooms to help push not only Quartz, but the industry forward into adopting their best story ideas into AR experiences.

Building The AR Workflow

After months of trial and error with crashed drones and 3D models that looked like they belong in a Salvador Dali museum instead of an iOS app we had figured out a cost effective and timely solution to creating 3D models. Using off the shelf products and a myriad of photogrammetry and 3D modeling software, we are now able to fly, photograph, stitch and finish a model in less than five days. 

Apple's ARKit 2 allows us a new way to showcase AR objects. We worked with the phenomenal development team at Quartz to build our models into their existing app and website (using iOS 12 you will be able to view the models in browser).

To put the finishing touches on the 3D models, we partnered with Steven King and Alexis Barnes from the Emerging Technologies Lab at UNC Chapel Hill. Together, Steven and Alexis were able to plan and execute a difficult workflow of correcting any software errors in stitching the 3D models and prep them for delivery to the developers at Quartz.

Bringing The Story into your living room


During the development phase, hand picked writers from Quartz planned feature stories on the eight locations across the globe. Lauren Brown, Special Projects Editor at Quartz, led the charge on the editorial side working with Steve to plan the incredibly difficult task of capturing objects in a myriad of scenarios, from the busy streets of downtown Los Angeles to remote mountain tops of Taipei.

In The Field

Up in the air was the award-winning photojournalist Melissa Lyttle piloting our drones to precisely and safely fly above, around and near many obstacles in order for us to be able to photograph specific patterns to create an accurate 3D model.

All in, this project was the culmination of hundreds of hours of research and development, flight and travel planning, editorial meetings, field reporting and photography, 3D modeling and rendering to get a finished 3D model into the iOS app.

We are incredibly proud at SeeBoundless to be working with Quartz, UNC Chapel Hill and Melissa to create the first AR news series and the largest AR news project to date.

See "The 2050 Project" on Quartz’s website and iOS app now.


Gallery | In The Field