How Technology is Changing Tourism
Our increasingly digital world is often associated with isolation. There’s a common belief that digital experiences are supplanting real-world adventures and that an abundance of devices is creating a barrier between people and the environment around them.
However, this doesn’t have to be the case! Many traditional (and not-so-traditional) tourist attractions are finding ways to utilize technology to create richer, more educational experiences for visitors.
The British Museum’s “A Gift for Athena” augmented reality game immerses visitors in the museum’s Parthenon exhibit by transforming the space into a digital world that they navigate through a smartphone app. Visitors are able to solve puzzle and battle bosses, while simultaneously learning about the history of the pieces and the importance of the Parthenon in history.
My company, Geomedia, helped National Geographic bring digital tourism on the road with their “Earth Explorers” exhibit, which is in the middle of three year tour. The exhibit highlights six different environments that visitors can explore through simulated vehicle and hot air balloon rides, video clips, and augmented reality stations. When visitors scan an augmented reality marker with their smartphone or tablet, it generates an interactive 3D model of an animal found in that environment and rewards the visitor with a special trophy. When we developed the AR stations, we wanted to do something that wouldn’t just entertain visitors, but would actively contribute to engagement with the exhibit.
Union Station Kansas City, a 100 year old museum and train station, is using new technology to bring iconic characters from history to life. Passengers (and visitors) using the station’s “Living History” app can view and insert themselves into video reenactments of famous scenes from the station’s past. Whether it’s dancing for Walt Disney or posing with Harry Truman, visitors get a sense of just how long Union Station has been around.
The travel app Tourpal is a personal tour guide on your smartphone. The downloadable tours come in a variety of languages and cover tourist areas all across the globe. Professional tour guides can upload their own tours to the app, providing a wealth of options for travelers, or those looking to explore closer to home.
As handheld technology continues to expand, these kinds of innovative tourist experiences will help ambitious places set themselves apart and attract new visitors. Additionally, some of them can be used to gather data on visitor behavior, providing valuable insight into exhibit popularity, knowledge retention and wayfinding.