Let’s face it: mobile AR has been mostly useless thus far. Can you name a single AR app you use on a daily basis that solves a real problem in your life? Probably not. The skepticism surrounding AR is understandable, as the space has failed to find a breakout success after the Pokemon Go phenomenon.
However, the recent emergence of AR Cloud technologies means that mobile AR has become immediately useful for many industries – particularly due to new capabilities around wayfinding, “in-situ” content discovery, and the ability to annotate the physical world with digital content.
The travel industry will benefit from the AR Cloud in a few specific ways:airport and transport navigation, training and communication for staff, and personalized tours. I’ve interviewed three travel industry experts who expand on how these new AR capabilities will benefit the tourism space.
Seamless navigation of airports and transport networks
Beyond augmenting tourist destinations, AR adds utility to the trip itself. Insider knowledge can be gained through spatially anchored information layers and useful tips, based on real-time information about urban transport networks. Instead of having to stare at a 2D birds-eye view of Google Maps, travelers will be able to see directions laid out in camera view, enabling them to intuitively navigate airports and public transportation.
Sean O’Neill is the travel tech editor at Skift. He explains that “if you’re a traveler who has arrived at a foreign airport for the first time, it can be a daunting experience. You don’t know where you’re supposed to go and you’re under a time constraint. These elements can make the airport experience nerve-wracking, particularly if you don’t speak or read the local language. AR can now enable you to view your route through your camera and provide useful information about where you need to go, how to get there, as well as a time estimate on how long it’ll take you to get to your gate.”
O’Neill continues, “AR can also help travelers with real-time changes that may occur, such as gate changes, in their own language. Imagine foreign travelers arriving at LAX and not understanding how to get around or how to ask for help. Which specific part of the immigration queue should they join? What documents should they have prepared? Where do they need to go to claim their lost luggage? This real-time information can be synced into airport systems so that travelers can get the info they need, when they need it, and know where to go once they understand the situation.”
“In situ” training and communication for staff
One of the greatest benefits of the AR Cloud is the ability to post useful “in-situ” content in the precise locations where people will need to access information. One customer-facing use case is for hotels to pin multilingual tutorial content in areas within a guest suite.
By doing this, travelers can immediately orient themselves to their room and learn how to use the thermostat, stove, or ironing board. While this is valuable, the travel industry can also benefit significantly from AR capabilities applied to staff training and internal communication.
Henry Harteveldt is the founder of Atmosphere Research Group, a boutique research and advisory firm focused on the travel industry. According to Harteveldt, “AR can be immediately practical for training new employees. A recently recruited member of a hotel’s facilities management staff could benefit from tutorial content pinned to locations around the property. An experienced manager could record videos that explain how to use specific pieces of equipment and how to properly restock supplies, then pin that content in the precise location where these tasks will be handled later on. In doing so, a new recruit can quickly get up to speed without having to consult coworkers on how to handle certain processes.”
Harteveldt continues, “AR can also be useful for external communication within the travel industry. For example, if a contractor is hired to repair equipment on a cruise ship, the vessel’s staff can annotate the equipment with a video of staff members explaining the cause of the malfunction. This note could also include text links to the manufacturer’s website for that specific piece of equipment, along with contact info to their direct support line. The ability to create, post, and consume on-demand and in-situ digital content can help travel industry stakeholders communicate more effectively across space and time.”
Personalized AR Tours
Many museums have self-guided audio tours, in which you download the museum’s app and listen to a recording that explains information about various exhibits. While this adds value to the tour, it assumes that all visitors have similar preferences about how they’d like to experience the museum. However, the AR Cloud has enabled the creation of highly personalized and interactive experiences that can cater to the unique preferences of each visitor.
Kevin May is the editor-in-chief of PhocusWire, who expands on this idea: “Imagine a family visiting a Civil War battle site at Gettysburg. The parents are both physicians and the two teenage sons find history boring in general. With customized AR tours, each member of this family could experience Gettysburg in a personalized and memorable way. For example, the parents could experience the battlefield as a war medic would, with 3D recreations of how amputations were conducted without anesthesia. They could also gain a deeper understanding about how infections from wounds contributed to the mass casualties of the war.”
May continues, “in contrast, the two teenage sons could play an interactive game — an AR equivalent of ‘The Oregon Trail’ — in which they battle head to head as Confederate and Union forces. They could manage troops and resources in a manner similar to the conditions faced in the real battle, thus learning while playing. By providing a range of interactive AR experiences to travelers, it’s possible to improve visitors’ experiences by catering to their unique interests.”