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AR Fan Engagement From Universal and HBO: Dinotracker AR App and ‘House of the Dragon’ Snapchat Lens

They call it fan engagement. We call it hanging out with dinos and dragons.


Niantic and Universal Pictures. Snapchat and HBO. Last week saw two big AR fan engagement initiatives around the launches of two big media franchise offerings. But, two very different approaches to getting fans involved.

Here, we take a look at the Jurassic World Dominion Dinotracker AR App and the House of the Dragon Snapchat experience. We’ll look at what the experiences entail and how you can jump in.

Jurassic World Dominion Dinotracker AR App

Niantic games and experiences have a way of drawing us into our childhood fantasies. For many, that’s the world of Pokémon. For some, it was the Harry Potter universe or the world of Pikmin. Now, the larger-than-life AR company is tackling dinosaurs in a new fan engagement initiative.

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The Dinotracker AR App was developed by Trigger XR, LG Uplus, and the Global Telco Alliance to bring the dinosaurs of Jurassic World Dominion to fans through Niantic’s Lightship AR Developers Kit. For better or worse, every Niantic-associated game will probably be compared to Pokémon Go. In this case, it’s an apt comparison.

The AR App

Jurassic World Dominion sees humans struggling with a new life – alongside dinosaurs. The Dinotracker AR app places fans in the middle of that world. Through the camera on their mobile device, users track and interact with dinosaurs. There are over twenty different kinds of life-sized AR dinosaurs to find and interact with.

Jurassic World Dinotracker AR app

Each species of dinosaur has different traits and behaviors. Where each dinosaur appears and how it behaves varies based on the user’s location – fueled by semantic understanding provided by Niantic’s software. As with Pokémon Go, users will have to explore different kinds of physical environments in order to interact with different kinds of dinos.

“Our goal for the Dinotracker AR app was to create the most realistic experience possible, enabling fans to feel like these incredible creatures are in front of them and immersed in their surroundings,” Trigger XR CEO, Jason Yim, said in a shared release. “We’re excited to bring in the latest XR tech from Niantic and combine it with one of the world’s most beloved series.”

Interactions include drawing the AR dinos toward a laser pointer, and feeding them. These features are enabled through hand-tracking. This also contributes to the sense of immersion. But, be aware that the experience may vary somewhat on iOS and Android devices, which have different hardware and software approaches to tracking.

The Desktop Experience

Fan engagement isn’t limited to engagement between the fans and the app. Users interact with one another indirectly by taking notes about the presence of dinosaur tracks and other features to help other users find a dino. Registered dinosaur sightings even appear on a global tracker.

Dinotracker AR app field guide

The global tracker allows users to select sightings pinned on a global map that updates in real time, search by sightings, or access a “field guide.” The field guide contains information on the different species of dinosaurs, including where users are most likely to encounter them.

What’s the Occasion?

Dinotracker AR app was released in conjunction with the debut of Jurassic World Dominion Extended Edition. The application is both a testament to the increase in using AR to promote fan engagement in the age of at-home streaming, and a potential preview of what Niantic’s Campfire AR social network may look like as that product continues development.

House of the Dragon Snapchat Experience

In case Game of Thrones fans need another reason to be excited, a Snapchat initiative is bringing creatures from the new series House of the Dragon to life through their mobile device. The fan engagement initiative was launched to coincide with the airing of the first episode but is slated to continue and grow throughout the season.

Features for Everyone

Fans can find the House of the Dragon filters and Lenses through their Snapchat carousel, or by scanning a Snapcode. Once they have found the effects, fans can play with them no matter where they are in the world – though some locations have special effects through Snap’s Custom Landmarker program.

Through the “selfie cam,” users can take a simple snapshot with the House of the Dragon logo. For added fun, just raise your eyebrows and be morphed into a dragon yourself. Open your dragon mouth and project a jet of flame.

AR fan experience HBO Snap House of the Dragon

Open the world-facing camera and a dragon appears in your sky, flaps up and stops in front of the camera, and breathes fire in your face. (“Sky” is actually a strong word. The Lens really just needs a few clean feet. I was on my way out the door to test the experience and a dragon appeared in my kitchen before I’d gotten outside. Bug, or feature?)

If you live near a world landmark, the fan engagement experience is a bit “extra.”

Content in Select Areas

Snapchat and HBO made the dragon assets for the experience available to select Lens Creators using Snap’s Custom Landmarker technology. These creators then made unique experiences centered around locations in the real world. If you approach one of the participating Landmarkers, a special button to launch the experience will appear in your Lens carousel.

At launch, there are six such locations around the world including the Venice Beach Grand Canals in Los Angeles and Tower Bridge in London. Keep an eye to the sky, however. Dragons are expected to appear in the clouds over more than a dozen other locations around the world between now and the season finale in October.

Snap x HBO House of the Dragon AR fan engagement

If you’re a long-time GoT fan, some of this may sound familiar. Snapchat and HBO actually partnered on a fan engagement initiative when the final season of the original series premiered three years ago. That effect involved a dragon attacking New York’s Flatiron Building. Will the dragons return to the New York skyline?

A Developing Experience

The House of the Dragon Snapchat fan engagement experience, at first glance, isn’t hugely unique. We’ve seen Custom Landmarkers before, and we’ve seen AR dragons to add depth to a premiere before. However, there’s more to this than that.

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The fact that the fan engagement experience grows over time is an interesting feature – particularly since the appearance of dragons lines up with the show’s plot.

Some Pretty Big Fan Engagement Opportunities

Both of these AR experiences are examples of pretty big studios working with pretty big tech partners to promote pretty big releases.

Promotion has to be a keyword here because both of these fan engagement experiences are completely free – created only to bring fans into the worlds of their favorite stories. And dragons are basically dinosaurs.

Jon Jaehnig
the authorJon Jaehnig
Jon Jaehnig is a freelance journalist with special interest in emerging technologies. Jon has a degree in Scientific and Technical Communication from Michigan Technological University and lives in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. If you have a story suggestion for Jon, you may contact him here.