One must be careful when considering the topic of this post as to which new reality I am referring to. One is embryonic in the light of the coronavirus pandemic and will be temporary though with some lasting significant shockwaves. The other is technologolical; ubiquity for augmented and mixed reality with all the creative opportunities that it promises beckons, though it needn’t ofcourse replace the spontaneous of the here and now. They are not mutually exclusive.

The story behind AR History started on a snowy day in February 2019, when I was hunted down by a mysterious and perfectly charming Swedish tech founder who had been scouring Europe to find a top tour guide to work with him in creating an environmentally friendly alternative for experiencing the world’s great cities and cultural landmarks.

It was a perfect fit. Not least as I had experience in establishing and growing start ups, as well as digital product development and was certified in the agile framework, Scrum.

AR History enables users to conjure a virtual storyteller to guide them both in the cities they visit and for staycationers at home.  It combines this revolutionary technology with rich media content such as images, video and 3D models

Currently available on Android and iOS smartphones, it will also support near future innovations such as augmented reality spectacles and visors, as well as the more ambitious future innovatory promise of mobile holographic technology.

Prior to my own involvement, our team in Gothenburg had already worked with public funded historical sites in Gothenburg combing the magic of AR, the ubiquity of the smartphone in a gamified application that enabled users to defend the New Älvsborg Castle from hordes of 17th century Danish invaders.

Two early live product testers who joined myself and the team with early tests of the application.

The vision is eventually to cover the world’s 100 most interesting historical locations and cities with content already produced for London, Paris, Rome, Athens, Venice, New York and of course, Gothenburg to whet the whistle of our early adopters. Indeed, in the case of the latter, we have already been trialing the current iteration of the application with local bus tour companies in partnership.

Exploring London In Augmented Reality

For London, we intend to produce a dedicated London city app under The London Storyteller brand and to support multiple languages, as well as more narrative story themes with a finer granularity of locations and points of interest.

Our content in the finest city on earth already covers locations and topics such as the Tower of London, St Pauls Cathedral, Buckingham Palace, the Great Fire of London, Banqueting House, Tower Bridge, the Houses of Parliament and the site of the Crystal Palace in Hyde Park. The latter is an interesting one, as it allowed us to utilise the platform’s 3D model capability to show users what this great now sadly lost Victorian wonder looked like.

My personal vision for London is to incorporate content that explores themes and narratives including the world of Samuel Pepys, Roman London, the Blitz and walking biographies for great historical figures such as Winston Churchill, Charles Dickens and Henry VIII. The wonderful thing is that we can do these things and more; there is no limit to the imagination and we are finding new technology to play with all the time.

The AR History app of today is but a taster of the scope that we are working to encompass and perhaps more tantilisingly can also be seen as a technology platform which can be tailored in terms of functionality and populated with bespoke content for partners.

Our vision is to establish a global operational HQ for the project here in London, while retaining close links with our founding partners in Gothenburg, Sweden with their extensive experience in working with world innovators in mobile communication technology and related innovation.

Development, as will surprise precisely no one from the tech community, is ongoing and we are doing so on an iterative basis.  It is an endless wire, as we know that the scope for development and the technology that we can utilise is continuing to advance, which opens exciting new possibilities whilst allowing us to serve users today.

We are all now navigating through some remarkable, unexpected times but we began this journey long before there was any talk of a global pandemic that would radically shift the behaviour of travellers and how they might explore and engage with the culture of the finest city on earth and those who have the misfortune not to be London.

So, I am pleased to share this with you now and provide some insight in what we are working toward.  AR History is already there for taking on Android and iOS; in the meantime, I am looking forward to finding new partners to work with as we continue to develop and enhance our user experience and how it can serve other stakeholders in London and globally.

Tom Barclay Matchett

The London Storyteller



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