We’re revisiting iconic destinations with augmented reality

In a new augmented reality (AR) installation launched in September, smart device manufacturer Honor opened Gateway to the Future – an initiative designed to enrich cultural heritage through AR with two global artists, Yunuene Esparza and Timo Helgert .

Both artists created AR experiences for the Wasserschloss building in Hamburg’s Speicherstadt, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, to inspire people around the world to rethink cultural treasures in the afterlife.

With its visual aesthetic, Esparza’s contribution to the Gateway to the Future AR experience pays homage to the evolution of the Port of Hamburg. It shows how innovation in maritime logistics has progressed over time. Helgert’s AR experience reimagines what the Wasserschloss would look like if it were transformed by nature, including flora, fauna and fantastical creatures.

Faced with the growing interest in the metaverse and the growth of hybrid tourism, Honor’s Gateway to the Future is designed to connect communities in more immersive ways.

In a press statement, the company said that AR and artificial intelligence (AI) are tools to create even more physical experiences for smartphone users, helping hybrid tourism flourish.

Janine Liu, Marketing Director of Honor Germany, says Honor sees the metaverse as a virtual space powered by AI, AR and spatial audio innovations.

“Advancements in technology are making these virtual experiences more immersive than ever before,” Liu said. “A few years ago, people would need to buy expensive VR equipment to access similar experiences. Now, we’re making our smartphone technology so advanced that people around the world can have a similar audio-visual experience through their smartphones .”

Esparza says the rise of AR, virtual reality (VR) and mixed reality innovations are the perfect solution for people to satisfy their hunger to experience cultural treasures from the comfort of their own homes.

“In 2022, the world has slowly returned to normal, with one key difference [..] People are used to the convenience and variety of virtual experiences,” Esparza said. “Nothing can replace the authenticity of being able to appreciate a piece of art or cultural heritage in real life, but now, people expect more – they want phygital experiences, the best of the physical and digital worlds.”

Esparza says the beauty of AR and AI is that everyday consumers can experience the technology on their smartphones.

“Art is no longer limited to physical locations. People can experience immersive AR art anywhere, anytime,” said Esparza. “For the younger generation that has grown up with smartphones, art has become more accessible thanks to these technologies.”

Esparza believes that artificial intelligence allows people to spot cultural opportunities that they might otherwise overlook.

“For example, imagine you’re on a road trip. You could unknowingly be standing in front of a local landmark that has a rich and interesting history and miss a great photo opportunity,” Esparza said. “AI can recognize buildings around you or even bring up relevant information, such as nearby cafes, when you need to refuel after a long day of sightseeing.”

“These AI capabilities already exist in today’s smartphones, so anyone can leverage this technology to access richer cultural experiences,” added Esparza. “It connects communities with different cultural spaces and spaces in completely immersive ways, and to me, that’s very powerful.”

“During the global lockdown, people around the world have discovered a renewed appreciation for creative and cultural experiences they had previously taken for granted,” Esparza said. “Closed in and unable to travel, this appetite for connection to culture became so strong that people began to turn to technology to fix their culture.”

“We believe in AR and VR [..] have the ability to equip artists with [..] creative freedom,” Liu said. “Honor’s investment in smartphone AR and VR technology lowers the barrier to entry”.

“When anyone around the world can experience AR and VR on their smartphones in very smooth, high definition, artists will be more inclined to leverage this technology to create more immersive, mesmerizing works of art,” adds Liu .

Virtual tourists can experience the Gateway to the Future until November 2022 through the Arloopa app. Users can experience the AR artworks in real life in Hamburg or anywhere in the world. You can see the real life experience from the Poggenmühlen-Brücke in Hamburg. Virtual tourists can select an experience on any surface in the app and follow on-screen instructions to virtually place the AR experience of their choice on a flat surface nearby.

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