How AR & VR are shaping tourism and travel

The way we travel, and interact with museums, art or monuments is changing. Augmented Reality technologies are reshaping the meaning of tourism.

Cultural tourism moves most people around the world. Especially those cities with heritage value, with monuments and ancient history, receive a humongous amount of tourists.

Sometimes this great influx of people meant a risk not only to heritage conservation but also to the health of people, especially in these Covid times we are living in.

Not many other economic activities have suffered the crisis derived from the covid pandemic as the tourism sector. For many countries, the benefits derived from this activity mean the main income of their GDP.

In this article, we will talk about how VR and AR can help solve these problems and make tourism accessible to everyone.

The AR sector is predicted to grow from 5.91 billion USD to 198 billion USD by 2025, according to a Statista report.

Tourism from home

Let’s face it. Tourism is expensive and not everyone can travel. Whether for a lack of money, time or due to mobility problems that make it impossible for them to access historical sites.

Virtual reality technologies are revolutionising the tourism sector, allowing us to visit remote places and have a glimpse of what a city looks like in the comfort of our own houses.

AR experiences, VR games and AR apps are gaining popularity not only as a substitute for tourism in the real world but as a way of escape from our daily routines.

How does it work?

Essentially AR and VR apps, alter and enhance the perception of people in their physical world when using virtual reality headsets, goggles, their phones or any other AR technology.

As a popular example of an AR app, we can stress the huge success of Pokemon Go. It meant a milestone in the AR technologies application in the real world.

Due to the commercial success of Pokemon Go, it became clear that society was ready for this technology and it would become a profitable business.

Some of these apps use GPS so they can track the user’s location and show them precise information. The use of geolocalization is perfect for developing city tours using AR technologies.

Augmented Reality was already being used before the covid pandemic but ever since it started, its popularity has exploded. Among its advantages, we can uphold:

  • Allow people to plan their visit
  • People with disabilities can visit, for instance, archaeological sites that otherwise couldn’t get into due to mobility issues
  • It’s a new way to interact with all kinds of people with animated content
  • Interact with your destination before you reach it
  • Make tourist places more attractive
  • Educate people about historical events

Guided tours

Guide Tour companies are hopping into the new AR technology to present their products and show customers the wonders of ancient cities.

But, what if we want to use our digital identity to interact with these virtual tours?

What if, while we are at home enjoying a virtual guide tour in Rome we want to see ourselves interacting with the monuments, streets and heritage sites?

Some of these companies allow us to interact with the ancient world using avatars.

3D realistic avatars are a great fit for creating an immersive experience when interacting with AR & VR worlds. Avatars were created to embody ourselves in the virtual worlds. The connection you have with the digital world and the people you interact with within is much more immersive if you have a realistic representation of yourself, rather than a dolly-like avatar.

As an example of it, Imageen, a Spanish company, creates this wonderful tour where we can recreate ancient buildings and constructions while we walk around the city. Check its work in the video below:

Museums and Augmented Reality

Museums are no longer archaic places where the only way to interact with art and history is by staring at some static objects. The introduction of Augmented Reality technologies changes the way we interact with what we see, so museums can be even more interesting and fun.

The new AR experiences allow us to see how dinosaurs looked and moved, how Davinci’s inventions worked or how penguins and panda bears behave.

This video is a vivid example of that:

Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle

In summer 2021, the Muséum national d’Histoire naturelle in Paris, presented its AR experience. It uses Microsoft’s Hololens to bring back to life animals extinct by the hand of men.

The experience brings with it an increase in the number of visitors and huge engagement with the museum’s attraction.

Here you can check out the result:

The artist Alex Mayhew created in 2017 an Augmented Reality collection called ReBlink in the Art Gallery of Ontario. He took some of the art pieces in the museum and brought them to life. Using their smartphones and tablets the visitors can see how the art pieces come alive and blend in with our 21st-century reality.

These two museums are an example of how we can promote art and engage with the public from ages 1 to 100. The experience reports an increase of visitors, especially a younger public, historically not interested in the matter.

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