In this era of technology, Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) is not unknown to many. One way or another we have interacted with them on a daily basis. Some examples of AR include interactive gaming, online shopping, video conferencing and many more. Meanwhile, VR may not often be applied to our daily lives, however there are still practices of them in different organisations. VR can be used to train and learn in sectors from education, healthcare, and even large corporations. Within the perspective of tourism, you can explore many 360-degree videos of the locations which enables you to navigate around the place based on your movements. But have you ever thought about what exactly do you understand about VR and AR? Well, see if you can identify the ideas and test your knowledge from this piece!
1. What is Augmented Reality (AR)
Augmented Reality (AR) is a technology that allows one to superimpose digital content over a real-world environment. AR uses digital visual elements, sound or other sensory stimuli delivered via technology. By enhancing reality with interactive digital components, devices such as screens, glasses, handheld and mobile devices and head-mounted displays aids to bring it to life. Some of our AR applications include superimposing images, digital information and 3D models. They also incorporate adding real-time directions, inserting labels, changing colours and altering the user or their environment’s appearance using ‘filters’ on Instagram, Snapchat and other applications. While AR may sound like one concept, there are in fact different types of it which segregates them.
Marker-based AR is one of the main applications which are triggered by specific physical images such as markers, captured by the camera to position the digital content on top of it. A marker can be an object or a visual using logos, posters of QR codes. Meanwhile Markerless AR does not depend on markers enabling users to decide where to display to digital content. These applications rely on cameras, GPS, compass and accelerometers of the device itself to gain information with regards to the environment.
However, there are also three subcategories to Markerless AR. Superimposition-based AR replaces the original view of an object upon detecting them in the real world partially or fully. Secondly, projection-based AR projects light onto a surface to display digital objects without using an actual display device. Lastly, a location-based AR makes use of the device’s GPS and compass to position the virtual object to a specific location. One good example that you may be familiar with is Pokémon GO mobile game which provides augmentation in specific places.
2. What is Virtual Reality (VR)
Virtual Reality (VR) on the other hand makes use of computer technology to create a simulated environment. Users are places inside a three-dimensional experience allowing the users to get immersed and interact with 3D worlds rather than just placing a screen in front of them to watch. Using a hardware that supports sensory stimulation, it mimics how the eye and brain form visuals. Since our eyes are about three inches apart, it forms two slightly different views which our brain fuses so as to create a sense of depth or stereoscopic display. Within Virtual Reality, there are three types of categories that follows.
Firstly, the non-immersive virtual reality features a computer-generated virtual environment where the user simultaneously remains aware and controlled by their physical environment. This category is very common as it is a main example of non-immersive VR.
Next, the semi-immersive virtual reality gives an experience based in a virtual environment. This is used for educational and training purposes involving huge projector systems and graphical computing such as flight simulators for pilot trainees.
Finally, the fully immersive virtual reality allows one to experience virtual reality at its fullest as it generates realistic simulation experiences from sight to sound and even olfactory sensations. However, it has yet to be released since it takes a bit longer to create although some believe it may be available soon since technology is continuously advancing over the years. Car racing games is an example of the immersive virtual reality that enables the users to feel the speed and sensations throughout the game among the sight and sounds that are existing sensations which can be felt.
3. How does the Tourism Industry in Singapore use AR
Opening new doors for the tourism industry, AR augments the real-world environment by overlaying digital components. Within the travel industry, there have been an increase in hotels and other businesses within this field that enhance the physical environments. AR allows a tourist to attain information of the location they wish to visit beforehand rather than having to fret about researching them.
Hotels have recently included interactive elements within this sector to improve this experience. This allows companies such as hotels, resorts and other businesses to meet customers’ demand. One such company in Singapore that has integrated AR is Buzz AR (https://buzzar.app/). Buzz AR is Singapore’s first AR startup that has scaled with large enterprises. Buzz AR launched WebAR to increase the hospitality industry’s engagement rates using their various AR Avatar campaigns. Organised by the Singapore Tourism Board and their corporate innovation partner, F8 Innovation, they aim to enhance the guests’ experience through digital marketing efforts. Since the impact of the pandemic, this AR can help increase brand engagement to attract people to join you as well help to build loyalty. Building a narrative to your brand will enhance storytelling to your audience in an engaging and creative way. This AR will in turn humanise your brand as your audience will now be able to imagine a personality for your brand’s avatar.
On the other hand, Airline companies have also been including AR to enhance the experience for everyone. In 2017, SATS the leading provider of food and gateway services at Singapore Changi Airport announced the introduction of AR smart glasses to its ramp handling operations. The ergonomically designed smart glasses allows SAT’s ramp handling staff with critical information for example, loading instructions in real-time. Operators will be able to scan visual markers on baggage and cargo containers that provides details such as weight, unit number loading sequence and allocated position within the airplane. This improves the safety, accuracy and efficiency of baggage and cargo loading. The smart glasses come with a video recording feature and wireless connectivity capabilities. By video streaming, it helps to enhance the visibility of ramp handling operations across the airport by providing the ramp smart control centre a real-time view of on-ground processes. Flight controllers will be able to better supervise the place and provide the instructions to operators when handling cargo with special handling requirements based on the see-what-I-see feature.
Within the category of Attractions, Singapore Tourism Board (STB) previously partnered with Niantic to have a Pokemon GO and SingapoRediscover campaign. To help the local business community to grow especially after the pandemic broke out, 300 Pokestops and Gyms were introduced at tourism establishments across Singapore as part of the campaign. The addition of these virtual pitstops is the result of a collaboration between STB and Niantic, a leading American AR technology company. New life is breathed into these establishments by utilizing the popularity of the smartphone game Pokemon GO to enhance footfall and discovery of places to audiences. Campaign in-app advertisements are broadcast to players using augmented reality and geotagged locations. This gives a link to a microsite featuring ongoing promotions from local and national businesses. The introduction of location-sensitive triggers offers a smart and convincing nudge.
Tour companies in Singapore have been including AR to their tours as they adapted to go on virtual tours from physical tours when at the start of 2020. Travellers' views of their physical surroundings are altered by AR, which gives additional tourist experiences and chances for engagement. One example is the AR Heritage Trail with Archery Combat Tour. As you explore Sembawang through AR, you get to learn about the location’s history and other facts which integrates indoor archery. Similar to the airline company, AR-enabled glasses offer a more immersive experience that is both entertaining and eliminates the need for a tour guide.
4. How does the Tourism Industry in Singapore use VR
In recent years after the pandemic broke out, the most affected sector was the Tourism industry. In these unprecedented times, many companies had to find alternatives to improve their business. VR were one of the areas many companies took into consideration and implemented with their products.
Under the category of Hotel, one example that was able to open up new doors was The Ritz-Carlton, Millenia Singapore. As part of its newly announced augmented reality art tour, which features seven of the hotel's famed sculptures, visitors and guests are able to interact virtually. The world's first self-directed experience offers an interactive, immersive, and socially distant option for digital natives to examine works by Frank Stella, Dale Chihuly, and other renowned artists. To get started, simply scan a QR code near the reception. All from the phone's web browser, you can learn about different artists and their inspirations, listen to calming soundtracks, and even interact with animated computer images. Photos and videos may also be readily shot and shared on social media.
Airline companies in Singapore have also started to use VR to enhance their guests’ experience. Qantas is using virtual reality (VR) technology into the design of its new Changi Airport First Lounge, which debuted at the end of 2019. The airline is collaborating with industrial designer David Caon and his team, who have built an immersive virtual reality version of the design idea, allowing the carrier to sample lounges in a more realistic manner.
One of the most known practices of VR is on attractions. Headrock VR is known for their services in providing a fun and interactive way for everyone to experience. They have various services such as the VR Play Zone which are different thematic VR experience for all ages to play. They also have a Kids Media Interactive Zone to expose children to the advancements in technology which combines analogue and digital technology.
On the other hand, tour companies uses 360 function to create videos for their virtual tours. The Red Marker is one company that helps to provide 360 & 3D virtual tours solutions which include 360 virtual tours, Matterport 3D Scanning, 3D rendering, 3D Modelling and many more. 360 Tours Singapore is another company which creates these virtual tours to make it more interactive and engaging for viewers.
5. AR vs VR in the future
As AR and VR continues to climb the ladder and progresses, there are aspects of both reality we need to consider. Since both of them have yet to reach its full potential, we are still unsure of how exactly it will continue to grow. However, we look forward to a massive evolution of both technologies in the coming years. When it comes to comparing AR vs VR within tourism, both of them can be used simultaneously for the betterment of the industry. Currently, AR is more developed as compared to VR since it allows the user more freedom and a higher possibility for marketers which does not require a head-mounted display. What hinders the both of them, is that they require a high resolution, life-like object. A mixed reality is one probability that can be explored as they both are advancing. Since the outbreak of the pandemic, AR and VR can be used to heal the industry such as using headsets, tablets, smartphones, wearables, and consoles.
With this information, we hope you were able to learn more about the technology that has changed and developed over the years. We believe this technology over the next few years can help to increase the business prospect and allow the companies’ audience to multiply. If you enjoyed reading this article and wished to learn more about AR and VR, download our Monster Day Tours Interactive Travel Companion app and check out the interactive 3D maps and many more!