Winner Stories

On Creating the HotStepper: A Q&A with Nexus Studios

Nexus Studios pushed the boundaries of augmented reality with its character-based, wayfinding app HotStepper. We spoke with them about their Webby Win and more.

Using augmented reality in a navigation app seems contradictory at first. Shouldn’t you watch the road while navigating?

Kind of.

Luke Ritchie, Executive Producer at Nexus Studios and his team turned that assumption on its head by creating HotStepper—a character-driven, wayfinding app that uses AR to project a (two-stepping) guide to help users navigate. The app, equally quirky and useful, brings users a unique and fun way to get where they need to go, while experimenting with the possibilities of augmented reality.

Needless to say, the app nabbed the 2018 Webby Award for Best Use of GPS or Location Technology in Mobile Sites & Apps.

We talked with Luke about creating the app, what excites them about the future of AR, and more.

Why did you choose to use Augmented Reality for this navigation app? 

The easiest way to get somewhere is to follow someone who knows where they’re going. We created “character-based way-finding” as an example of how we could fundamentally change how we navigate outdoors and indoors with ease.

How did your team go about choosing the right character as HotStepper’s tour guide? 

We actually developed a cast of characters for HotStepper but in the end wanted to lead with the character who would create the most lasting impression—good or bad, he gets recognized everywhere.

What was the biggest challenge with creating this app? 

The steering algorithm was the biggest challenge; how to improve the accuracy of GPS with only software enhancements. In the future we’ll have visual positioning for a high degree of accuracy, but for now to make HotStepper feel like he’s leading you somewhere and “act” like he knows where the sidewalk and road begin and end was a huge challenge.

In the end we used data “hacks” to optimize the accuracy, focusing on what the data tells us you might be doing naturally—like for example, slowing down your walk may imply you’re getting close to a corner.

How do you envision the growth of AR transforming tech and navigation going forward? 

It’s already happening. I believe HotStepper triggered Google to explore integrating the “character-based” wayfinding into Google Maps (teased at Google IO 2018) with a fox to follow. Technologies like Machine-Learning, Computer-Vision, and the ARCloud are transforming navigation as we begin to build a highly accurate visual representation of the real world that we can utilize for high-accurate services.

You won the Webby Award for Best Use of GPS or Location Technology—congratulations! What does your Webby win mean to your team?

It’s fantastic recognition of a game-changing product that was the first example of the benefits of character-based wayfinding.

Learn more about the 2018 Webby Winner HotStepper and check out our past Winners Stories, as well as other great stories of and for the Internet on the Webby Features page.

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