From voice AR guides to virtual trips! Enjoy your trip with AR/VR technology

In recent years, there have been an increasing number of cases where ICT (Information and Communication Technology) is being used in the tourism industry. Things that are familiar to us include tourist guide apps that use AR (augmented reality) and VR (virtual reality) travel. Enjoy a trip with a difference.
Tourist guide app using AR
When you think of travel and tourism related apps, you probably think of digital versions of paper guidebooks. The content includes information on tourist spots and surrounding information using maps, text, photos, videos, and illustrations.

However, the tourist guide app introduced this time works in conjunction with the GPS function of smartphones, and when you get close to a pre-set sightseeing spot, it automatically starts a voice tour guide, and you can see the actual scenery of historical buildings that you can’t see in reality. It can be seen in comparison with

Although the number of areas supported is still small, we will introduce three apps that allow you to have a new sightseeing experience.

Sightseeing guide with voice AR
“SARF – Voice expands your daily life”
“SARF – Voice expands your daily life” is an application that allows you to listen to a tourist guide with “Voice AR”. Available for iPhone and Android smartphones.

When we think of AR, we tend to think of it as a technology that superimposes visuals on the real world, but the concept of superimposing voices and music that can only be heard in the real world on top of it is called “voice AR”.

When you get close to a tourist spot, you can automatically hear the audio guide and read the text data. Depending on the spot, you can play music by linking with the flat-rate music distribution service “AWA” from the app.

This time, I tried “Hakata Traditional Culture Meguri” to enjoy the old town of Hakata in Fukuoka City with voice AR. SARF has 31 areas (as of August 2022).

When you start the app, a list of areas will be displayed in order of proximity from your current location. From here, select an area to visit by tapping it. An explanation of the area will be displayed, and you can start sightseeing by pressing the “Start” button.

At this time, a warning regarding the use of walking smartphones and earphones will be displayed.

Playing music at a loud volume annoys people around you, and if you hold your smartphone to your ear like you would when talking on the phone, your hands will be occupied. Therefore, it is recommended to use earphones, but please be careful not to block external sounds.

This time, I used Apple’s “AirPods Pro”, but I set it to “External sound capture” in iPhone’s “Settings” → “Bluetooth” → “AirPods Pro”.
A map around the current location is displayed, and a large blue point with voice AR settings is displayed on the map. If you follow this map and walk toward the spot, you won’t have to worry about getting lost even if it’s your first time.

By tapping the spot, you can check the photo and text information of the facility.

The light blue part of the spot is the approximate viewable area, but when you get close to this area, the iPhone will vibrate. Therefore, if you confirm the direction to some extent, you will not need to keep looking at the map.

When you enter the viewable area, the audio AR will be played automatically. At the same time, the explanation of the spot is displayed on the screen. If you leave the viewable area, playback will stop even in the middle.

In this way, you can aim for a spot on the map and look around the surrounding tourist spots while listening to the audio AR.
“Street Museum” where you can take a realistic walk through historical sites in VR
“Street Museum” is an app that allows you to enjoy historical sites such as castles and industrial heritage that once existed in VR. It can be used on iPhone/iPad and Android smartphones/tablets.

In conjunction with the GPS function of your smartphone, when you enter a VR spot, you can see the historical sites that once existed in that place while comparing them with the current scenery. Some, but not all spots, play audio commentary.

When you start the app, the VR spot is displayed on the map. Spots near your current location are automatically selected. As of August 2022, 42 historic sites across Japan and a Japanese village in Thailand are registered.

Tap the “Preview” button to display the “100 Famous Castles Preview” screen. You can read an overview of each castle by tapping the castle icon on the map. As of August 2022, 19 castles are registered.

By tapping “View panorama” displayed below the text, you can also see the current landscape with a 360° panorama photo.
This time, I tried using “Street Museum” at the Fukuoka Castle Ruins in Fukuoka City.

Launch the app and select Fukuoka Castle. Swipe up from the bottom of the screen to read the explanation, and tap “Nearby information” at the bottom to display the VR spot on the map.

When you go near the ruins of Fukuoka Castle, the “START” button is automatically displayed at the bottom of the screen, so tap it. Here, I was prompted to download VR content.

The download size is as large as 134MB for Fukuoka Castle Ruins. It cannot be downloaded in advance. Be careful if the contract data communication volume of mobile communication is small.

When the download is complete, a warning about walking smartphones will be displayed, so tap “Done”. Now the tour begins.

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