Augmented Reality Can Transform The Tourist Experience

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If you’re reading this, congratulations. There’s a good chance you’ve escaped the clutches of Old Man Winter and are striding upon the easy path of gold and flowers known as springtime. Some readers may be experiencing a bout of showery weather, as can be expected with the change in the season, but worry not: your time in the sun will come.

The weather’s good and you want to be outside all the time, right? But there’s only so many times you can stroll around your nearest dog poo-strewn park, so it’s time to visit a nearby attraction. No, not a fabricated outdoor shopping mall with endless lines at Starbucks and Cinnabon, but something that will really feed your mind: any of the countless monuments and historical sites scattered across the globe, which visiting could teach you something about a different culture or even your own backyard.

What a time to do this, and not just because of the season. Every April 18th, UNESCO celebrates their self-appointed International Day for Monuments and Sites, which brings awareness to cultural and historic places on their World Heritage Sites list. Your country likely has at least one, if not several. Whether or not you’re looking for a weekend adventure or putting together your summer vacation, they’re fascinating options for a visit.

If you’ve been following this blog, you already suspect one thing: AR technologies are probably changing the way our tourist experiences take shape. And you’d be right. ARtGlass is a Washington, DC-based startup designing wearable AR glasses for use at cultural sites, which can do everything from photo-realistically restoring spaces to adding context that helps interpret artifacts and architecture alike.

This use case is a defining example of the word “augmented” – no experience requires more physical presence and consciousness than travel. Historical tourism especially requires an imagination to picture what is no longer there. The most interesting thing for me, your friendly neighborhood author, to picture is the way in which historians and programmers come together to render a detailed reconstruction of the past. It’s fun to imagine how previous generations led life, but for anybody who’s not a scholar, these imaginings are vague. Augmented reality technologies not only help us imagine history, they help us encounter it.

All of which is great for adults, but luckily for kids, AR can help us play with history as well. Research has been done on the gamification of tourist experiences at Orava Castle in Slovakia, connected with the classic Nosferatu character, where they have introduced a virtual, Nosferatu-inspired character as a guide that encourage participants to complete virtual quests inside the castle walls. See? Augmented reality helps everybody get a dose of culture.

It’s likely that UNESCO understands the potential of the synthesis of AR and tourism, having recently held a seminar on the potential impact of AR and 3D technologies. Moreover, a study has been conducted to see how site visitors respond to using these technologies and their likelihood to use them. The results appear to justify any investment that UNESCO may make in the technologies, and it opens the door for startups to develop this software and enrich the tourist experience in ways we can’t yet imagine (while still being able to enjoy the sunshine).

But of course, we always like to try. How do you think that the synthesis of augmented reality and tourist experiences could be altered or expanded upon? Let us know what you think in the comments section below! As always, thank you for reading.