Thursday, July 25, 2013

Augmented Reality for tourists

Yesterday I flew from Scotland to England on EasyJet.  I anticipated a bad flight, with thunderstorms in both Glasgow and Stansted, so I pulled out the inflight magazine to try to distract myself.  Inside I discovered an interesting article about augmented reality and the new wearable technology - glasses that deliver information to us about the places where we are.  I was interested to read that Professor Dimitrios Buhalis, from the eTourism Lab of Bournemouth University, considers that augmented reality could be "the greatest thing to happen to tourism since the passenger jet".  He says that AR will soon become a part of our everyday lives, and that this will be led by the tourist industry.

You don't need Google Glasses to experience AR today, many smartphones have apps that can be held up to objects to let you find out more about them using graphics, audio or text.  Yelp is a good example of such an app in use today.  There's  an app called Nearest Tube which I may try out later this week when I'm in London. and the Lonely Planet has already produced AR Compass Guides for 25 cities.  I can definitely see the value of AR in museums, as visitors can learn more about the exhibits.  Others point out the downside, however.  If we are absorbed in the AR, will we still enjoy the direct experience, or will the technology become a barrier and get in the way?  I love taking audio tours of art galleries, for example, but I'm not sure I'd like to look at all the paintings through apps or AR glasses.

What do you think?  The Horizon Report has AR earmarked for mainstream adoption in schools within a few years.  Do you think education is more likely to lead the way, or tourism?  Are we more likely to see people walking around and pointing a smartphone or a tablet at an object and using apps for AR, or do you think that Google Glasses will soon make inroads into everyday life?  One thing is for sure - it won't be long until we all find out.

Photo Credit: heloukee via Compfight cc

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