Musemio, a UK-based startup with Ukrainian founders, has launched SunflowAR, a pro-bono project centred around an immersive, web-based, augmented reality (WebAR) experience. Its aim is to cut through news fatigue about the war in Ukraine; raise awareness about increased humanitarian needs in the region; and secure donations to help Ukrainian civilians.
Musemio is a digital destination for children to enjoy and understand culture by allowing them to interact with cultural journeys in a mobile 3D and VR environment where they can play and join quests while learning.
The project has attracted a consortium of partners including AR platform Zappar, and co-creators include three-times BAFTA-nominated Delyth Thomas, and award-winning immersive playwright Robert Morgan.
It follows a little girl called Sonyashnyk (Sunflower in Ukrainian), who appears in users’ homes using the power of smartphones and augmented reality. She invites users to see symbolic representations of Ukraine, including a vast and blooming sunflower field overtaken by the war. At the end of the experience, users are encouraged to donate to UNITED24, the main venue for collecting charitable donations in support of Ukraine.
The experience was developed in response to the decrease in humanitarian aid arriving in Ukraine. Data from the Office of the President of Ukraine shows that international aid arriving in the country is slowing, falling by 79 per cent from 4 March to 16 August. Declining interest in the war is also a contributing factor. Data from Google Trends shows that in the last three months, there were more searches for the UEFA European Championships than for the war in Ukraine. With a harsh and extremely cold winter of sub-zero temperatures expected, humanitarian resources are needed now to prevent this winter from becoming the next life-threatening challenge for civilians.
The team behind the project lives through the chaos caused by the invasion. Olga Kravchenko, a Ukrainian national and founder of Musemio, is based in the UK and spent many sleepless weeks trying to get her mother and grandmother out of Ukraine while the Russian troops were storming the outskirts of the capital.
“By mid-April, I started hearing people in the UK saying they couldn’t watch the news about Ukraine any more so they would just switch it off, and I knew that aid reaching Ukraine will start slowing down,” she said. “With winter coming and temperatures dropping sometimes to -20 Celsius (-4 degrees Fahrenheit), I fear for Ukrainians with no supplies. If during the first few weeks, we couldn’t find trucks and drivers quick enough to deliver donations, today these trucks arrive almost empty”.
Oleksandr Ivanytskiy, CTO of Musemio, combined his work at the company with daily patrols of his neighbourhood in Kyiv He said: “Our team couldn’t leave the country when the war erupted. Team meetings were surreal, as it was all about how close the missile hit to our parent's house, or how many hours we had to spend in the bomb shelters. Constant sirens and military manoeuvres interrupted our work calls, but we found ways around it”
The SunflowAR experience is accessible on smartphones via this link: https://webxr.run/lPmJdvGGP9m9d
It is designed to be used on smartphones that already support WebAR (iPhone X and above, and most Android devices released after 2016). Around three and a half billion Android and Apple devices already support WebAR. The WebAR experience will also run on Google Chrome, Apple Safari and other popular browsers.
There’s also a video showcasing the AR experience here.