Augmented Reality

Reviving Giants: Augmented Reality Brings Mastodons to Life at the University of Waterloo


UX, Design, Development, Animation




University of Waterloo




Augmenting a mural

Mastodons once roamed Southern Ontario but went extinct sometime after the last ice age. In the 1800s, settlers discovered their bones while digging a drainage ditch to empty the fertile wetland for agricultural use. The museum's collection includes a mural by artist Mark Rehkopf depicting an ice age moment of one such Mastoron. Meld was chosen to create an AR installation that brings the mural to life, narrating the mastodon's journey through time. The experience highlights the creature's life, its mysterious decline, and the region's ecological and cultural evolution.


Bridging Millennia

The augmented reality project aimed to enhance Mark Rehkopf's existing mural by depicting a seamless timeline from the ice age to the long-standing presence of Indigenous peoples in the region, and finally the arrival of settlers. The project aimed to illustrate the life and eventual death of the mastodon in a wetland, as well as the changing landscape over thousands of years. It aimed to highlight the significance of the ancient creature's existence, its discovery by settlers, and the land's importance to Indigenous communities throughout history.


Mastodons and technology

Using the Vuforia AR library within Unity, the project merged Rehkopf’s mural into an augmented reality journey that tells a chronological story. The mural serves as an anchor for the an augmented reality narrative. This approach allowed the depiction of the wetland during three pivotal eras: during the mastodon's life in the ice age, through the eyes of Indigenous peoples 10,000 years ago, and at the moment of the settlers’ discovery 200 years ago. By using the mural as a canvas for augmented storytelling, the app offered museum visitors a multi-layered understanding of the land’s rich history and the interconnectedness of its past inhabitants.


The Mastodon AR app

The Mastodon AR app is now available worldwide viewing on the Apple App Store. Users can learn and engage with the ancient mastodon story at their convenience and travel back in time to Southern Ontario's prehistoric past.

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