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March 1, 2014

Better than reality

Creative company Brown Sauce purveys practical fantasy through its world-leading augmented reality app ‘Flying Saucer’. From an office on Ebenezer Place, the firm is set to make technology formerly relegated to the realms of science fiction very real for local and international businesses.

  • Words: Farrin Foster
  • Pictures: André Castellucci

“I’ve written eight books – I’ve got four non-fiction and four fiction,” Andy Shea says, as he leans on a desk in his East End office.

Prior to meeting Andy, CityMag had noticed that his CV included a journalism career and authorship. But eight books is a lot. And his journalism experience wasn’t a few years spent on the real estate desk, but instead included stints stationed in the Middle East, time in Vietnam as Reuters’ Bureau Chief and more than a year as a reporter at The Australian.

Taken together with his earlier career as a London cop in the serial offenders unit, where he specialised in interviewing psychopaths, it was almost too much accomplishment – particularly for someone we had come to interview about an iPhone app. Nonetheless, we fast-forward through a seemingly endless list of early achievements only to find Andy in Sydney in the late ’90s without a visa but with a strong desire to avoid returning to his native London.

“I got offered a job with the Sydney Morning Herald, and I was a bit over journalism at the time,” he says. “But I needed to get sponsored and I ended up getting a job with Leighton Holdings, the big construction company, as their corporate writer. So I basically sold my soul to the corporate devil.”

Brown Sauce owner and founder Andy Shea

Brown Sauce owner and founder Andy Shea

Although he may no longer have a soul [this is debateable – he still seems quite capable of humour], it was his five years at Leighton Holdings that gave Andy the idea for his current business, Brown Sauce, which he established in 2005.

“When my visa expired, I was made redundant and I thought I could either pack up and go elsewhere or give running a business a crack. It was quite funny, I left Leighton on the Friday and I was back there on the Tuesday on a consultant’s wage,” Andy says.

Andy started out at Brown Sauce helping big companies write tenders for big jobs, bringing to bear his communication skills and understanding of the bureauc-ratic system. Soon, though, he found himself up-selling the tender packages to include extra features.

With a team of freelancers on-hand to contribute, Brown Sauce started to offer graphic design, video production and 3D animation as add-ons to written tenders, making the documents “more dynamic”. Then the company took dynanism to a whole new level, spending two years developing an augmented reality app called Flying Saucer.

Augmented reality is one of those things, much like the internet, that everyone will struggle to understand before it quickly becomes second nature.

Augmented reality is one of those things, much like the internet, that everyone will struggle to understand before it quickly becomes second nature and grows to be commonplace. In its basic form, Flying Saucer adds stuff – like a new paint job, or a building renovation, or an animation of a stomping dinosaur – into a landscape of real things.

It allows the user to point their phone or iPad at, for example, a shopfront and watch as it develops or changes in front of their eyes. Obviously, this has broad application. It’s useful for Andy’s existing clients who might want to show the government how the construction they’re proposing will transform a plaza, but it’s also applicable across any number of other industries.

“We started by targeting the construction industry, because I know them and how they work,” says Andy. “We tried to break the app there – tried to make it not work there – and that allowed us to develop it further. Now it’s gotten to the point where we can take it out to the market. We’re looking at retail, transport, museums, galleries, all kinds of things.”

Brown Sauce has offices in Sydney and Hong Kong and clients across Australia and the globe, but as the world-leading technology that makes up Flying Saucer came together, Andy decided to set up HQ in Adelaide.

“I moved to Adelaide from Sydney a couple of years ago,” he says. “I was travelling a lot, and especially with my kids being so young I thought it would be good if I could try and spend more time in one spot. We tossed a coin – we almost went to Hong Kong – but in the end just decided it wasn’t the right lifestyle.”


Still don’t understand augmented reality? It took us a while too. Pick up issue 4 of CityMag to get a demo of Flying Saucer in action.

Dave Forster – a former project director for SA Health – joins Andy in the Brown Sauce Adelaide office. From here the pair are planning to sell their services to everyone from corporate landlords to government departments.

With so much international success already on the books, and a bleeding- edge technology to their name, it surely won’t take Adelaide too long to realise that Brown Sauce is the future in our own backyard.

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