Two weeks ago , with my suitcase packed full of sightseeing appropriate clothing, my hand luggage full of guide books and my new prescription sunglasses firmly placed on my head (essential for high-up views over the city), I was eagerly awaiting my first trip to Rome.
While the holiday more than lived up to my expectations, there was one element that proved frustrating – books. Although I do have a Kindle that could have easily held my guide book, for me nothing beats grappling through pages of monuments, ruins and churches to identify the mound of rocks that sit in front of you, or stumbling upon a less well known, but truly amazing church. So, having resigned myself to a large bag, I proceeded to get back ache lugging around a Top Ten Tips guide, a full sized guide book and a Restoration Rome book (complete with cellophane overlays).
After a whole week of juggling books and possibly damaging the curvature of my spine in the pursuit of knowledge, I realised that there must be a way to make digital guides as exciting and useful as printed versions, in fact, there must be a way to make them better. Perhaps the answer is augmented reality?
Prior to going away, I hadn’t really understood the value of augmented reality, and thought it a bit gimmicky in the early stages of development, but now I’m beginning to see its value.
Imagine, walking around with your very own Mary Beard deciphering the symbolism and explaining the reasons behind that great big arch or unusually large tombstone. Or for people like me, who didn’t learn Latin in school, a live translation of the inscription at the head of the Pantheon. Some attractions are already creating app versions of their audio guides, of which I am a massive fan, but what if it’s just a plaque at the side of the road I want to understand, or a gargoyle on the front of a church? Essentially I want to be able to look at the ruins of the Colosseum, raise my phone, and be able to understand and see it as it was in AD 72.
As a fully fledged history geek, I of course would fully embrace any history orientated applications, but even I didn’t think to look for an augmented reality app before my trip. My suggestion is that businesses, local authorities, travel guides and museums should be working together to create and promote apps which use augmented reality to bring a city to life. Whether it be to direct them to a much acclaimed restaurant, decipher a hidden inscription or advise on where to buy tickets to enter the Vatican (harder than you might think) – having everything all in one place, in varying levels of detail, would make businesses more successful, and in my opinion, holidays more interesting!
Now all we need is lower data roaming costs...
If you know of any good augmented reality apps tweet me @linzichallis!