When Physical Becomes Impractical, Augmented Reality is Key

Immersive 3D Experiences for Footwear with INDG & Puma

Today we take a look at a collaboration between INDG and Puma and the creation of product renders and an AR experience in Snapchat. With the outbreak of the pandemic and in-store physical interactions becoming difficult or impossible, we’ll take a closer look at the strategy behind this project and how 3D can create immersive and interactive experiences bringing brands and customers ever closer. At the end of this article, you can try the experience yourself!

Sonny Lim – As Global Head of Design for Motorsport Footwear at Puma, I am responsible for the design and creation of all Motorsport shoes, from the fireproof professional driver shoes to car-related lifestyle shoes. I lead and mentor a team of talented designers and create innovative strategic design approaches with meaningful Motorsport product innovations. In addition, part of my responsibility is to be in close contact with the Scuderia Ferrari, Mercedes AMG-Petronas, Red Bull Racing F1 teams, Porsche Design and BMW M Motorsports. 

Ben Mahon – Hi, my name is Ben Mahon, I head up operations for INDG Fashion. I have a background in product design and project management within design. In the Fashion Team at INDG, we take care of creating digital replicas of all types of fashion products before they are physically produced. We then help brands to maximize the re-use of those 3D assets from design purposes through to marketing, B2B, and, finally, toward the end consumer. We are always trying to keep up with the latest technologies for recreating the fabrics in the fastest and in the most realistic way.

Brindusa Delion – Hi, my name is Brindusa Delion and I’m a texture artist at INDG Fashion, where I’ve been working for over 6 years. Before I joined, I’ve worked in cartoons and games for almost 20 years. My main challenge is to create textures so real that a viewer cannot tell that it’s generated. I focus on getting materials to photo-real quality using scanning, photography, or recreating fabrics with the Substance toolkit. We also use Substance Source materials which we tweak to make them look how we need and Substance Painter to add more details as stitches and folds.

Collaboration between INDG & Puma

Sonny Lim – For this collection and collaboration with Porsche, we selected two of our classic silhouettes: the 1970s-inspired Future Rider and the motorsport-classic Speedcat. These became the basis for the eight shoes representing eight generations of the Porsche 911 Turbo, reflecting a key evolution in the 911 engine over time: “Air-Cooled” and “Water-Cooled.”  

We used original Porsche 911 Turbo hues, including Riviera Blue, Guards Red, Saffron Yellow Metallic, and GT Silver Metallic, as inspiration to create eight shoes with a look instantly recognizable for any Porsche aficionado. The PUMA x Porsche collection was limited to 500 pairs per unique sneaker design across all sizes. 

Puma’s in-house 3D team already created detailed, high-resolution polygon models for the Future Rider and Speedcat. However, these were too heavy for real-time rendering and an interactive AR experience.  

INDG remodeled, retextured and optimized all eight shoes for the Snapchat AR application and real-time rendering. INDG’s team was able to create high-quality, realistic 3D shoe models with a file size of less than 4MB.  

Ben Mahon – We’ve been supporting several business units in establishing 3D workflows to support the digital acceleration initiative at Puma. We work alongside the product teams to create digital prototypes in the design process to enable the creation of better product, faster — before the final sample gets produced.  

We then support the Puma teams in preparing those 3D assets for whatever use case they may have, this can vary from photorealistic still product shots, to dynamic animations and further into interactive opportunities such as the Porsche design, snapchat filters. 

Bringing brands and customers ever closer thanks to 3D

Sonny Lim – The shoes were originally scheduled for launch during the New York Auto Show at the Puma NYC Flagship Store. However, the COVID-19 crisis and subsequent lockdown led to the cancellation of this launch event.  

Porsche North America’s marketing agency, Cramer-Krasselt, suggested an augmented reality setting for the cars and shoes. Customers would be able to virtually experience all the Porsche Turbo car generations and try on the matching shoes without having to set foot in the physical stores. This is highly relevant because many stores across the U.S. were either closed or had a limited shopping experience. 3D enabled customers to experience this Porsche x Puma collection anywhere. 

Puma Motorsport was able to support 3D because we have already integrated it in our product creation and development process. This project provided an opportunity to explore a customer-facing and immersive 3D experience. 

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Creating content for AR

Brindusa Delion – We had to both source and create materials for this project and these materials had to be “AR-Ready.” The materials for this project are a mix of Substance Source and procedurally created textures inside Substance Designer. Added detailing and stitching was done inside Substance Painter, we love using it to enhance the photorealism of our visuals. 

We presented renders made with Iray  in Substance Painter and the final result in Lens had to be the same quality. This was my first project for Lens, and the workflow is well documented and very intuitive. I also had the nice surprise to see the quality of textures with a very good compression exported by Substance Painter into Lens Studio. After exporting, it was a simple drag and drop into Lens. The creative process was very fast, Sonny provided us with very clear creative direction which enabled us to work at speed within the tools we were using. 

3D in the footwear industry

Sonny Lim – 3D has been used in footwear for many decades now to model the mid- and outsoles. It is only a small step to create the uppers in 3D as well. However, a customer-facing and interactive 3D experience requires a different 3D Model and pipeline than 3D for high-quality visuals and animations or manufacturing.  

Ben Mahon – This is the key to success when implementing 3D processes for fashion products. The investment in the initial creation of the 3D asset, to reduce physical sampling and therefore waste in the form of materials, time and resources, should be the key driver in the first place.  

However, from there, you have an asset that can be used in a flexible manner to drive color and material iterations to the product teams. That existing model can then be enhanced for high-quality visualization and consumer-facing use cases such as e-commerce photography replacement or consumer interaction through AR, VR, and general digital commerce solutions. 

Impact of the Snapchat AR experience 

Sonny Lim – Most shoes were sold out within a few days, which is not a lot of time to measure customer engagement. However, the main project goal was the exploration of AR for our special-edition footwear. In this light, the Snapchat AR experience was received very positively by both internal and external parties. This project served as an agile test project to build knowledge for possible future endeavors and explore possible partners. 

Future opportunities in AR and immersive experiences

Sonny Lim – AR could be expanded to apparel as well to create a complete outfit together with shoes. There is also an opportunity to embed immersive experiences with e-commerce sites so the try-on and purchase phases are integrated.  

All images courtesy of Puma & INDG.
Try the AR experience on Snapchat: