Creating an underwater illusion with Coral Reef AR

Creating an underwater illusion with Coral Reef AR

A new ground-breaking research facility is now open at Bristol Royal Hospital for Children (BRHC). The research centre known as ‘The Coral Reef’ was formally opened on 9th November 2023 after it reached a staggering fundraising target for the new facility.

For the opening of the Clinical Research Facility we developed 2 Coral Reef AR social media filters to bring panels from artist Chris’ beautiful aquatic murals to life,  in collaboration with Bristol & Weston Hospitals Charity.

Hosted on Facebook and Instagram, we utilised popular, pre-installed apps rather than requiring visitors to download a separate app, giving a fun and light-touch way of experiencing the AR. We find this approach most effective for events or one-time visitors who want an undemanding ‘taste’ of the content rather than a repeated experience or ‘deep dive.’

Our augmented reality social media filters animate the wall murals in the waiting area and patient bays. All you need to do is scan the QR code or access the filters via the Bristol & Weston Hospitals Charity Instagram.

Coral Reef AR filters at launch event


AR experiences




Animated Fish




This Coral Reef AR project was generously funded by the Bristol & Weston Hospitals Charity, and thanks to the support of the Arts Programme team from the University Hospitals Bristol and Weston NHS Foundation Trust.

Artist Chris Dickason kindly allowed us to animate and augment his artwork.

Fishing for inspiration

We were excited to bring artist Chris Dickason’s aquatic wall murals to life through a series of augmented reality interventions that greet visitors to the new Clinical Research Facility and act as a reassuring companion through their stay at the Children’s Hospital.

Rather than immersing visitors in their phone screens, our AR experiences encourage users to examine Chris’ coral reef more closely; phones and tablets become a tool to discover additional elements of the artwork, providing a sense of comfort and calm.

We used a range of traditional animation techniques to add movement to Chris’ artwork, making the fish and coral move mesmerically.

Next we spatialised the environment, creating depth by layering different parts of the artwork to give the illusion that some fish were closer than others.

Finally we added bubbles and light rays to really make the coral reef AR scenes pop!

Waiting room wonders

On arrival at the Coral Reef in the Clinical Research Facility visitors will spot the welcoming artwork, and be able to play with the AR interactions as they wait to be seen by a consultant or admitted. Visitors are encouraged to use their devices to examine the wall vinyls, which appear dimensionalised when viewed via the AR filter.

We wanted to create a mesmeric ‘treasure hunt’-style experience which would suit returning visitors, and any siblings or young companions who may need distracting and entertaining whilst they wait.

Views from the bay

In the patient bays we animated the fish and coral, and added bubble effects.

However, as this space is inhabited for longer periods of time we designed a more comprehensive AR experience for this room, focussing on bringing the rippling water and changing light to life.

We also created a glowing effect on certain plants and fish to mimic the phosphorescent sea life like jellyfish and other luminous species. The repeating light patterns and slow moving fish mimic calming, sensory techniques to soothe in-patients.

Explore our AR filters for murals at Bridgwater train station, an exhibition at Bristol’s Botanical Gardens, and the Six Sisters murals on North Street.

If you’re interested in creating your own augmented reality murals or want to add something special to a launch, do get in touch and we’ll happily advise you on your first AR experience!