Augmented Reality for Tourism

This article was written by Christopher Harrison Skinner.

Proposal #1: Augmented Reality

My idea for a tourism app is to use augmented reality to introduce tourists to history through their phones at historic locations. A company could hire reenactors to portray any event at a historical location and film it with a 360 degree camera. Then, augmented reality developers could make an app that shows this reenacted scene to the user through their electronic device. This allows the user to experience a reenactment of history up close and in any position they want and at the same historic location. The image below is a good example of what I was thinking about; I took a modern-day image of New Orleans and a historical photo and made it appear that the viewer sees the historic photo through their phone.

The user can access these historic records by scanning the area with their phone and then the phone can either lead the user to a historic location using GPS, or can show the user what this area would have looked like in the past.

This version of augmented reality could be repurposed for almost anything tourism related; haunted houses, historic battles, maps, the Hurricane Katrina flood, sports. Almost anything could be recreated with reenactors, computer generated images, and historic buildings.

We can also use Augmented Reality to go through different time periods for any historic area. Take, for instance, the Saint Louis Cathedral located in New Orleans, Louisiana. The cathedral was first constructed in 1718 and has been rebuilt many times. The app could have a slider bar at the bottom or top of the phone and the user could slide the bar depending on what time period they want to view. The cathedral could be shown as just a two-dimensional image or it could be remade using a three-dimensional model made by 3d artists.

If the user decides to linger, some quick historical facts could appear on the screen or be told to the user via speech-to-text. To gamify this experience, we can use a number of different methods:

  • Firstly, we can incentivise player interaction by prompting them to screenshot the AR game when they are viewing historic places and events and tag us in any relevant social media platform; we can then award the player with points to be tracked on a leaderboard that can be either local or global (or both). This work for both incentivising the player and generating free advertisements for the app. We could also award user achievements and milestones with gift cards or some other monetary prize (travel discounts or cooperation with local businesses and hotels?)
  • For historic events, we can have the player participate in history. Take the battle of New Orleans during the War of 1812, we could have a player participate in multiple roles in the battle; they could be on either the American or British side and either be a line infantryman, an artillery crewman, an officer, or a civilian observer. The player would be awarded points if they can follow a set path and observe events within the time allotment.

This concept can easily be gamified in a number of ways: we could

To better understand the app idea, an understanding of the difference between Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) is needed. Below are two examples; Pok?mon Go (an AR app) and the Oculus Rift (a VR headset).

Pok?mon Go, developed and published by Niantic, is a game for mobile phones released in the summer of 2016. The game’s main pull is that users can find and collect digital monsters scattered around the world using their phones. As you can tell from the picture above, a 3d digital creature is superimposed on the world as seen through the camera.

Augmented reality differs from virtual reality in one major way. In virtual reality, the user’s sense of space in the world is almost completely nullified; at the least, users of virtual reality wear a headset that completely obstructs their vision of the real world. The Oculus Rift (pictured below from the front and the back) is a prime example of what a basic virtual reality headset looks like.

As you can see, the headset completely envelopes the user’s eyes, cutting off their view of the real world. Inside the headset are a pair of small screens that are directly in front of the user’s eyes. The screens work like typical screens, displaying whatever the developer has made, the pair of small screens creating a false binocular vision. Some more advanced models also come with hand controls that are able to create a digital copy of the user’s hands that track and mirror the users hand movements from the real world to the virtual world accurately using infrared sensors; additionally, they can include headphones that allow the user to hear whatever is in the virtual world. Finally, some experimental devices allow for the player to “walk” in the virtual world using a multi directional treadmill (pictured below).

All these combine to give the user the most realistic feeling of being in a virtual world apart from the real world. Unfortunately, all these devices mean that the user must be confined to a small area in the real world (as small as 2×2 meters to as large as 3×3 meters)

Augmented reality, on the other hand, primarily uses the real world and superimposes virtual assets (text, images, 3d and 2d, etc) onto the screen of whatever electronic device the camera is hooked up to. Compared to virtual reality, augmented reality is cheaper, more accessible, and allows the user to move about the real world freely.

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