Nespresso Vertuo AR

Augmented reality reinvigorates Nespresso staff training workshops.

  • Australia
  • 20
    training events
  • +600
    staff trained

When Nespresso launched their Vertuo coffee pods, we created an easy-to-use and scalable augmented reality experience designed to make staff training more effective and engaging. Triggered in part by the coffee pods themselves, the three 10-15 AR experiences used coffee-inspired animations to explore key product messaging, amplifying the company’s dedication to innovation and giving staff another way to interact with and understand the product.

Swirl of Coffee.

Commitment to innovation

The Idea

Innovation is a core pillar of the Nespresso brand. In preparation for launching their innovative centrifusion technology into the coffee world, we teamed up to find a way to use experiential marketing technology to introduce and reinforce key messages during staff training. Taking advantage of renewed interest in augmented reality, the resulting set of AR-triggered, coffee-inspired experiences explored the story of Nespresso’s new Vertuo coffee pods at events across Australia.

Nespresso Vertuo capsule coffee machine and capsule stand.

Iteration + experimentation


Rapid experimentation and iteration are always a big part of our process, and this project was no exception. To produce this digital marketing tool, we had a whirlwind timeline of just 6 weeks beginning to end. That 6 weeks included not only conceptualising, building and polishing the experience, but also some down-and-dirty research and development into how to technically execute the idea. While this timeline pushed the limits of what was possible, it also proved a valuable test of how quickly and effectively we could translate R&D into a polished output, all while iterating on the fly.

Mobile augmented reality

Mobile AR

The original brief for this project involved web-based augmented reality triggers and content displays. However, we quickly discovered that this solution would prove too unreliable for the longer-term, in-store application of staff training events. Instead, we proposed designing and developing a native augmented reality application for Android tablets that could be easily rolled out by Nespresso staff around the country.

Person holds tablet with augmented reality coffee particle visualisation for Nespresso AR.

Once this decision was made, the next challenge was finding a way to balance quality visuals against the limitations of mobile tracking and rendering. This required rapid testing not only of the capabilities of software and hardware solutions, but also how well they integrated with one another.

Eventually we settled on a combination of Houdini, Unreal Engine. As well as facilitating the core project requirements of image recognition, planar tracking, persistent AR and baked vertex animations, this pipeline supported an iterative, collaborative process. With this technology set, we were able to quickly produce proof-of-concept experiments which we were able to share regularly with the client to keep them up to date with the project as it progressed.

Quality vs. functionality

Art Direction

The final Nespresso Vertuo AR experiential marketing tool consisted of three 10-15 second augmented reality animations designed to bring core training messages to life. Integrating into the ‘artistic masterclass’ format of Nespresso Boutiques, these experiential marketing animations needed to be visually pleasing and able to run easily and reliably on mobile devices.

Woman holds tablet with Nespresso Vertuo AR particle visualisation.

Given the time constraints, we adopted a more stylised art direction that was both visually beautiful and able to be executed quickly. Inspired by the movement and texture of both liquid and granulated forms of coffee, the idea was to use stylised fluid simulations and particle effects to tell the story behind each training module through a series of abstract yet engaging metaphors.

Particle effects, fluid simulations

Visual Effects

Transforming our artistic direction into actual visual effects was probably the biggest challenge of this project. In order to get the coffee particle and liquid effects we wanted, we’d need the kind of fluid simulations usually used in film VFX. The problem here was that these effects are typically very heavy to render and generally not designed for use on mobile devices.

Not only did we need to convert these effects into real-time, we also needed to make them light enough to be used in mobile augmented reality. Thanks to some solid R&D from the team, we were able to develop a pipeline for creating our simulations in Houdini before exporting them to Unreal Engine where we could tackle the problem of optimisation for use in a real-time mobile application.

Custom AR markers

AR Markers

The final piece of Nespresso Vertuo AR was how to actually trigger the augmented reality experiences. In the end, we decided on high-contrast physical markers that could be easily recognised by the custom-built Android application. These physical markers would be more reliable for the project’s large-scale roll out as digital marketing training sessions across the country.

Custom-designed augmented reality marker for Nespresso AR experiential marketing.

To make things a little more interesting – and to reinforce the experiential marketing tool’s alignment with the Vertuo range – we designed these markers around the Nespresso coffee pods themselves. This proved to be a simple yet novel way to further integrate the product into the experience, and to reinforce Nespresso’s company-wide commitment to technology and innovation.

Person interacts with Nespresso augmented reality from digital marketing agency.

Roll out across Australia

Roll Out

Nespresso Vertuo AR was rolled out to over 600 staff at 20 training sessions across every state in Australia. Using cutting-edge technology to engage staff with key training messages, the digital marketing tool amplified the brand’s dedication to innovation in both product and process.

The project also demonstrated the potential of augmented reality in the contexts of both staff training and experiential marketing. With the integration of this technology into consumer-level devices, companies have a unique and accessible way to support more memorable brand experiences.

Swirl of Coffee.

Stay in the loop

Subscribe to our newsletter to receive updates and insights about Nespresso Vertuo AR and other S1T2 projects.

Welcome to the party