Is AR useful in tourism?

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Augmented reality is on the rise. Here are some pros and cons.

Geek or freak?

I have tried Augmented Reality mode as soon as I could when it was developed in our application. While looking around through my phone, I have noticed a few people looking at me. Especially when I was actually pointing in their direction with my phone. Some folks were questioning, while others were obviously considering if I'm a freak or trying to get a picture of them. And yes, there were parents with children, obviously concerned about my intentions.

I love sun. Just not on my screen.

Mobile phones and devices come in many kinds. And there are some excellent which still provide good picture when viewed in dark or in the sun. But not really when you look at the screen with live camera view and trying to see a small image that shows you augmented information.

When looking at your screen in sunny conditions (even in bright cloudy day), you will hardly notice any additional visual information smaller than 10% of the screen and with strong contrast to the surrounding area.

This is actually one of the biggest challanges we can see for augmented reality. Fine text or nicely constructed images with thin lines are not useful on today's mobile phones. You can only add big large blocks of material that cover much of the actual camera view. Which in return raises an important question in your head: "Why am I trying to read this through my camera in the first place?".

Physical therapy needed

What Google will nicely solve, is the need for the massage of our hands. After a few minutes of being in augmented reality mode, I have noticed that even the lightest mobile device is too heavy for this. Just try walking around for 10 minutes with your arm high enough to carry mobile phone in front of your face.

Where am I?

It is obviously tiring to look at the small screens for a long time. Now try doing it while you walk around. Your brain is not really wired this way properly. And surely, not really a joyful tourist trip to walk around a destination looking at your screen. No, augmented reality mode can't be used for more than a minute with joy.

Battery life

This is surely to be solved soon. Yet, in the best of the devices we have now, camera switched on drains the battery even when connected to adapter. And I do not know tourists at this moment that would prefer being out of battery in an hour because they want to explore the destination in augmented reality mode.

Better or even amazing experience

Yet, there are situations in which augmented reality mode is useful. At certain points, real life is full of information. There can be 50 interesting small details in a square. And pointing them on a map might be harder than presenting them on a live screen. So we belive that in tourism spots like squares, long streets, big buildings, certain concepts of AR mode will be used by certain target groups.

With adding playful features, AR mode might become an amazing experience at certain tourism spots. Imagine watching a battle of Waterloo live on the screen while being at Waterloo. Or experiencing an World War 2 with Stuckas air attack on the medieval European town.

Yes, this kind of experiences will certainly add amazing new experience to tourism. Yet, developing such rich experience is currently demanding and extremly depending on device capabilities. Observing an air attack on a 3'' screen with single core processor could be the worst tourism experience ever.

Augmented reality will develop

There are many new concepts besides Google goggles. And surely, many will point out to be extremly useful in many situations. Though in tourism, augmented reality currently negatively affects the experience of a classical tourism destination.