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Before it became home to the world’s largest gathering of cellular companies, Barcelona was already one of Europe’s most compelling tourist destinations — a city rich in culture, impressive architecture, and history. Now Telefónica, MediaPro, and Barcelona’s metropolitan transport agency TMB have teamed up to use 5G and augmented reality in a practical way for tourism, equipping a bus with a translucent display that can highlight key places as they appear in real life.

The 5G Augmented Tourism pilot program interestingly combines 5G data and location service capabilities with an atypically large AR display. While many companies work to miniaturize AR screens for wearable glasses, letting people view AR information as they move through real spaces and turn their heads, this solution allows multiple viewers to enjoy the augmented overlays at once. Photos and video show that tour guide or nearby users can touch the display for more information on specific landmarks, but most viewers will passively look at the overlays.

In the pilot, AR content takes two primary forms — heavy, high-contrast white outlined objects, and splashes of color that use edge animations to stand out against the real world. The only disadvantages are that the translucent display has a sunglasses-like effect on the real world, dimming it relative to the AR content, and in the pilot program it’s only installed in a single place on the bus. Similar AR window displays are likely to have higher contrast and be more widely distributed within future vehicles.


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At CES 2020 in January, automobile makers showed the beginnings of similar concepts for future vehicles, including driver-specific heads-up displays with AR, and car windows covered in thin, variably opaque/translucent video screens for entertainment purposes. But this program’s use of 5G to stream data and synchronize displays with real-world locations is a novel step forward and will be interesting to see in future tour buses.

5G Augmented Tourism is one of multiple initiatives currently underway with 5GBarcelona, a partnership between local government agencies, technology companies, and the Polytechnic University of Catalonia. The pilot has no date for general availability, but the project was unveiled in live, working form following the cancellation of MWC Barcelona last month.


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