Christmas is a time when the problems of homelessness are most acute. And it’s also a time when people are more open to thinking about the difficult times that others might experience. So instead of buying our cards from a supermarket this year, we made our own. With a story which creates an emotional impact, as well as doing something new and exciting, to engage with the people of Manchester, which hopefully might create action.

It’s a Christmas card using AR tech to get inside the experience of being homeless. On one side, the image triggers a mini-film coming out of the card, about our homeless donkey, searching for a bed for the night. On the other, there’s an image which triggers an Augmented Reality donkey, a 3D rounded animated character, giving you info about where to go in Manchester to get help. Because in Manchester, we don’t walk on by. We get together and find solutions. That’s the message. And it chimes with the Mayor’s Charity, with whom we are working – to find ways to end rough sleeping…..

The card was available at all sorts of Christmas events, carol services, Christmas markets etc. Users could download our app which allowed them to point their phone at the card’s Christmas images. This triggers an immersive film to erupt from the card. Our lovable homeless 3D donkey talks to real live people, and tells her story of being homeless at Christmas (because her stable is full.) On the back of the card, the donkey comes right out of the card, and appears in the real world in which the user tries the experience, whether it is the street, at home, or in any other space. And this is when the donkey will thank people who have donated to help her find somewhere to live, and give details of where people can go to help.

We worked with the local community on this: the animated donkey is voiced by a local school child and we used the skills of local young people from Sharp Futures.

This is just part of a community augmented reality story, which will amplify community messages, draw all areas of Manchester together, businesses, the community and charities, all with the aim of addressing one of the most serious issues facing our city.