How Augmented Reality brought sustainable fashion home to Wimbledon fans

WWF, WaterAid and HSBC caught people’s eye at Wimbledon this year with a unique use of AR (augmented reality) technology as part of their awareness-raising around sustainable supply chains.

Chloe Green | 18th Jul 19
Image from the augmented reality installation at Wimbledon

As far as captive audiences go, it’s difficult to beat Wimbledon. Over this year’s two week tournament nearly 40,000 people a day took to the grounds, including the many cafes, restaurants, museum exhibits and more surrounding the courts.

This year has seen a big ramp up in sustainability efforts from the organisers, including the launch of 100% recycled water bottles, and staff on the grounds to champion sustainability with visitors and support them to recycle their waste.

2019 has also seen the launch of the Sustainability at Wimbledon space – a new exhibit in the grounds aiming to help visitors imagine what Wimbledon will be like in 2030 with a positive vision of a greener future.

Through their partnership with HSBC, who are one of Wimbledon’s official partners, WWF and WaterAid saw a unique opportunity to raise public awareness around sustainable supply chains in the fashion industry.

> See also: Augmented reality app to drive charitable fundraising

With Andy Murray as a Global Ambassador, WWF had already been drumming up support from Wimbledon fans in the past in the fight against illegal poaching. WaterAid is an official charity for Wimbledon Foundation and has been raising awareness around water hygiene and sanitation throughout the championship.

Now both charities have come together, along with HSBC, to implement sustainable solutions for clean water, decent toilets and good hygiene throughout the supply chain. There is also a major push to explain how this not only transforms the lives of factory workers and their families, but will hugely improve their surrounding environment.

They turned to integrated communications agency Manifest, the team behind last year’s hologram elephant which walked around London in an effort to bring the public face to face with endangered wildlife trafficking. The charities knew they wanted something as attention-grabbing this time around – a clever use of tech that would make visitors to the tournament stop, interact and think.

Mirror magic

Manifest’s approach was to set up a mock Wimbledon changing room with AR (augmented reality) virtual mirrors to show what the champions of Wimbledon 2030 could be wearing, letting visitors imagine the sustainable garments of the future as a tennis-playing robot.

AR works by overlaying a virtual image over a real-world object – in this case, in front of the mirror, visitors were able to try on the futuristic virtual tennis clothes through cameras that sense their movement.

Simon Minton, Chief Technology Officer at Manifest said: “The concept was to create that visual talking point, that moment that engages people in a better way than cardboard cut-outs or something similar would. It helps them understand and really reinforces that message that water is a major problem within the production of garments.”

While interacting with the mirrors, visitors were fed key messages about the impact that the fashion industry has on ecosystems and water, and about WWF and WaterAid’s work with HSBC. Afterwards, they were invited to test their knowledge in an iPad-based quiz.

> See also: Fundraising third biggest hirer for VR jobs

Minton adds: “We’d been testing AR technology internally for a number of months, and this has been an incredible opportunity for us to play with it. We’re really excited by how open WWF, WaterAid and HSBC are to innovation and using these new AR techniques to really increase awareness and increase engagement.”

The team’s biggest challenge has been the unknown quantity in terms of the predicted audience at Wimbledon. While numbers are always guaranteed, they didn’t know exactly what the breakdown of this audience was going to be.

“Making sure we cater to every individual is incredibly important,” says Minton. “One thing we’ve done is to use futuristic robots instead of people in the mirrors, and we’ve been seeing kids especially really interact and engage – which is very important as we try to spread these messages to a younger generation.”

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