Arahis

Ace Cop

Arahis

The app for easy retrieval of places, sales, events. Augmented reality helps navigate through the city. Reviews and ratings shows the best places.


Idea — Ace Cop

Development, Design — Live Typing

Arahis
An ambitious app for Kazakhstan's cities
Task
Create mobile app for cities of Kazakhstan.
Past history
The customer provided us with the detailed brief and the work results of the previous team. The last team to work on the project didn't manage to implement the augmented reality technology and after we looked into the existing groundwork and assessed the project we persuaded our customer to start from scratch. However, Arahis had already been established as the name of the project. The first letters AR were supposed to stand for Augmented Reality mode.
The app was also required to inform the user about events and offers in the city to make it less of a plain navigation app and to make users want to use it regularly.
Research
The first thing to do was to research similar services. Analogous services already exist in Russia and worldwide, but are scarcely introduced in Kazakhstan.
Only a few augmented reality services work well enough to be actually used. Even though AR is not the most essential feature of a reference guide app, the customer insisted on implementing it the first. Therefore, a separate team was created within Live Typing to work on the Augmented Reality feature simultaneously with the general app design.
Augmented Reality (AR)
One of the examples of actual working AR suggested was the Junaio app, which can be considered a demo-version of the technology developed by Metaio. City navigation was one of the features included in Junaio.
Snapping points to the horizon line seemed a reasonable idea because the map services do not always provide information on building heights, not to mention floors that the specified locations occupy.
The icon that displays the nature of the place, its rating and the distance to the object were all examples of brief, informative and convenient design.
Nevertheless, Junaio had several shortcomings, some of them technological: the city mode of the AR experienced errors on certain Android devices, pins would disappear or the app just wouldn't launch. The most likely reason was the intensive usage of 3D, which is problematic on low-cost Android devices.

Junaio. Augmented Reality.
We had to turn the AR mode from a technical demo into a user-friendly, convenient tool
Solutions for AR mode design:
1. Three pin colors were selected to separate locations, offers and events.
2. Pins are placed in three rows by height. Position and size of a pin are determined by the distance to an object and serve to create visual perspective.
3. No more than four pins should be placed in one row.
4. Only the three objects closest to the vertical centre are active. All the other out-of-focus pins are translucent.
5. A horizon line is displayed as dots that move depending on phone's tilt.
6. Horizon dots are connected to the pins and info mini-pages by a solid line.
7. If several objects overlay more than a half of each other, pins are grouped together to not clutter up the interface.

Arahis. Augmented Reality.
Locations
Locations are the basis of every navigation app. Naturally, it would make sense to use categories to group large amounts of locations, but the immense amount of locations made it necessary for categories to be grouped themselves, which led to a complicated category tree. We wanted to make categorisation simpler and more flexible, which is why our idea was to use tags. Tags allow one certain location to be a part of any number of categories, and several locations in any category could be specified with further tags.
The location page displays detailed information about a place: photo, description, current offers and events, reviews and contact info.
Arahis for Android. Location screen.
Map
Google Maps was selected as the map engine because of appropriate SDK for Android and iOS. If objects are too close to each other and overlap, they are grouped (map point clustering). A number displays the amount of objects in a group. Group splits into separate objects when zooming in.
A filter could be used to simplify search and help display objects on the map and in the AR mode. The filter can be configured to display places, offers and events by category.
Rating and reviews
A location's rating is formed by reviews, scores, frequency of the place's screen hits, the amount of times the place has been added to favorites and is calculated according to a hidden formula. Locations are sorted by rating in lists. Each user can leave a review only once, but can edit the review. All reviews are moderated. Favorite lists are created from the locations, offers and events the user liked.
Login and registration
Registered users can leave their reviews and scores for locations.
Adding locations to the location database is available as an extra feature.
Registration is possible by e-mail and through social networks.
Events
Of course, a city app is expected to display events taking place at various locations: opening events, parties, shows and so on.
Events have categories, dates and locations. To mantain flexibility we also included duration, which makes it possible to correctly add exhibitions and other long-term events.
The event page is different from the location page in the list, and this helps a user navigate faster. Mini-pages display essential info: the name of the event, time and distance to the user. The user can then open the event page for more detailed information.
Offers
The offers section provides an overview of up-to-date offers and gifts various locations provide. The screen displays category lists each of which can be scrolled horizontally. This solution allows a user to quickly find the required offer type without having to check out all pages one by one. The user can also open a specific category's screen.
Promo Screen
During the design process we decided to make the app display the best locations, offers and events in promo sets. The primary goal of the promo screen is to advertise popular and recommended places. Google Play and AppStore were selected as examples of visual design for the promo sets: their familiarity to mobile device users makes them a perfect solution.
Solutions for Promo Screen design:
1. The ad banner on the top gets user's main attention. Ad banners are switched automatically at a short interval.
2. Promoted location categories are configured in the admin panel and can be turned off at any time.
3. Location, offer and event sets are displayed as a single feed, but each set consists of a horizontal list of scrollable cards.
4. Quick augmented reality mode activation is implemented through a floating button in the lower corner of the screen, styled after Material Design from Google's guidelines.
5. Location, offer and event search is done in the app by name and address.
6. The "Share" button will provide a link to the smart landing page arahis.kz, which identify current device and redirect a user to appropriate mobile store: Google Play or Apple AppStore.

Arahis for Android. Promo Screen
Search
A search feature is essential when dealing with a large amount of locations, events, offers and categories. Elastic Search was selected as the search engine: it's installed on its own servers, configured and is constantly updated.
Category hierarchy was rejected in favor of tags at the project design stage. Tags allow one single location to be a part of several categories. We also implemented hidden categories which act as synonyms to the already existing ones to help categorize objects without changing the names of the current specific tags.
Search is done simultaneously by places, events and offers in the mobile app, and words are automatically suggested when the user types in the query. Search results can display category names for fast switching into required theme category. Fast map point display is also done via Elastic Search.
Create a quality search feature can be challenging. In fact, it means making a miniature version of Google or Yandex. We continue our work on the Arahis search feature, improving it further and further.
Admin panel
We developed a browser-accessed admin panel to manage the app's content. The admin panel will be developed further to meet the editors' needs as the Arahis app evolves.
Location management
Tabular design provides a convenient overview of locations in the panel. The list displays all the essential info about a location: name, address, rating, partner program participation and preview pictures.
The following menus are one click away from the current screen:
— creating a location;
— editing a location;
— the user-suggested locations list;
— managing location branch offices.
Name, address and category search helps quickly find the required location.
Tag management
A search feature is implemented to help find tags that require editing. Multi-language tagging is not yet implemented, but the tag name can be changed. Filter tags are the tags available on the filter screen in the mobile app. Child tags are subcategories.
Removing the "can be assigned" flag hides the tag from being used in the location editing interface.
Event and offer management
Management of events and offers are almost similar. They can be re-ordered by simple mouse dragging. All the necessary fields for editing an event or an offer content are available.
Working with the reviews
Review moderation is done retrospectively (post-moderation). If necessary, a review can be rejected or returned to the approved reviews.
Reviews are split into three lists:
— pending moderation;
— approved;
— rejected.
Push-notifications
Manual notifications are available alongside automated push-notifications. The administrator can use the web interface to type a message, assign notification type and provide a link to the location, offer or event, directing the user to a specified screen after the push-notification is opened.
Promo Screen management
The Promo Screen section is used to add and edit banners, promo sets and location categories. The amount of banners is not limited. Scheduled publishing is available. Each banner's display start and finish dates can be configured.
The set consists of a category list, and objects can be added to each category. The time an object stays in the set is also configurable.
Location categories (tags) can be selected for promoting location groups.
Support
We continue to work on the complex and challenging Arahis project by monitoring the app's performance and user behavior, and we also mantain the servers and create marketing materials.