What’s trending now?
Augmented Reality (AR) is changing the way we view the world while we travel. It has taken the place of translation apps, city maps, and yes, even those expensive (and heavy) informative guides we feel compelled to buy at famous tourist sites.
So just what is AR? Basically, it is a collection of technologies that augment our real world view with additional graphics, audio, or text so that we can better understand what we are seeing – or where we are going.
Why it’s important
People who tour historical monuments, or want to catch the highlights of their favourite art collections can now experience these treasures in explicit detail. Take Berlin Wall 3D, for example. Layar AR users can generate a seemingly life-sized Berlin Wall right in front of them as they look through their tablet, or even their phone.
AR is rapidly taking over the way travellers interact with their surrounds. There is an AR app designed to point tourists to the nearest London Underground station by superimposing the directions at street level. You can see past – and planned – architecture in Holland with their UAR app. And there is talk of being able to see just what is on offer inside a museum by pointing your cell phone or tablet’s camera at it.
In South Africa, locals and tourists alike have been able to make use Dining-OUT’s AR functionality by pointing their phones at a shopping centre to see nearby restaurants. You can even pull up the menus before entering the building. It is incredibly useful, and yet still remarkably underused by South Africans.
When Google Glass is released on the market , users will be able to dismiss their phones and tablets in favour of wearable glasses that allow you not only to superimpose images, but also access text and other data associated with tourist sites.
What’s the butterfly effect
On the surface, things are looking fantastic. Imagine bringing Versailles to life as you see the hustle and bustle of the Hall of Mirrors filled with courtiers of your favourite era. And there is a certain charm to seeing what the Geneva train station will look like when renovations are complete, rather than seeing it covered in scaffolding.
But one has to wonder what the point truly is. Travel is not just glorious architecture, historic palaces, and museums filled with priceless wonders. Sometimes it is about getting yourself a bit lost and discovering a restaurant off the beaten path. And often it is about interacting with sights, sounds, smells and people around you. Otherwise, you may as well buy yourself a decent video of your favourite places and watch it with your computer on your lap so you can learn more if you want.
In addition, remarkably few travellers have the luxury of retreating into their own desires. Most people tend to visit tourist destinations in groups, or at the very least, in pairs. AR lends itself to isolationism if you are wearing ear phones and disturbance if you are not.
Layar is one of the major players on the market. They are a Dutch based company with a clear vision for the future. Their app is free for users, and they have a reasonable price structure for businesses looking to enhance their own services and applications. Google and Apple are racing to win consumer hearts when it comes to preferred gadgetry.
The global hot spots
Europe may be taking the lead, but the rest of the world is catching up swiftly. Fuzzy Logic, a South African company has just won the best AR Developer Award at the July 2013 AR Summit in London. Although it was for their birthday cards, perhaps they will soon adapt their talents to the ever growing South African tourism industry.
By: Katie Schenk
Katie is South African by choice, but she’s proud of being American too. She’s a writer, a producer, and a momma. If she can shut off – she sleeps. Her interests include advertising, home economics, entrepreneurial processes, South African idiosyncrasies, and rugby. (Really). She’s also a fan of Tudor history – but there’s nothing trendy (or trending) in that.
Image credit: Gallo Images/ Getty Images