6 barrier-breaking AR applications to inspire designers and developers


7 minute read
Alumni: Charlie Harman

Alumni: Charlie Harman

Marketing Manager

Digital Insights

Hand holding a smart phone up to camera. On the screen, an image of the world from space floats above the person's hand, which can be seen through the screen.

Augmented reality (AR) is huge. So huge, in fact, that a recent report from Greenlight Insight predicts that global revenue for AR content and devices will reach $36.4bn in 2023 – a whopping 11 times higher than their predicted revenue for 2019.

To date, the success of the likes of Pokémon Go and HoloLens have focused audiences on visual AR. But if the technology is to achieve the massive success predicted by Greenlight, designers and developers must look beyond just the visual sense, to think holistically and to embrace other applications of the technology.

Let’s take a look at some AR applications in action.

1. Immersive theatre

99% of 12-15-year-olds are online, and at the same time,  half of Britain’s teenagers have never been to the theatre. Could AR bridge the gap?

One theatre in Israel believes so, blending traditional performance and digital technology with AR-enhanced play Gulliver.

The Gesher Theatre in Tel Aviv has embarked on a collaborative project with stage performers, illustrators and software engineers to create a fully immersive show: live actors interact with cartoon beings, dodge animated obstacles and more, all viewed through AR headsets. Could such experiences bring a greater sense of relevance to today’s theatres?

2. Reimagining literature

When it comes to the arts, it’s not just theatre that is evolving – but literature too.

Ambient Literature explored the situated literary experience. This collaborative project between the University of Birmingham, UWE Bristol, Bath Spa University and Calvium investigated how a reader’s physical location can become a stage for the story itself, with stories written for specific locations to completely immerse the reader.

The Cartographer’s Confession combines the story by James Attlee with 3D soundscapes, vintage London photos, prose, audio, illustrations and more so that listeners could immerse themselves in the film’s plot, experiencing elements of the storyline in the places where they actually happened.

The Cartographer’s Confession Launch October 2017 from DCRC on Vimeo.

While printed book sales go from strength-to-strength, it’s important to consider how audience expectations are changing and developing around creative media. Could AR spell the next chapter in book publishing?

3. Making the invisible visible

How can visitors explore a heritage site that no longer exists, having burnt to the ground over 300 years ago?

The answer lies in AR.

When Calvium teamed up with Chomko and Rosier, Uninvited Guests and Historic Royal Palaces to create an experience to introduce visitors to The Lost Palace of Whitehall, we needed to be creative, enabling visitors to experience the sights and sounds of a non-existent attraction to life.

By combining bespoke handheld devices with 3D sound and haptic technology, visitors could immerse themselves in an experience that allowed them to both touch and feel the past, in the location where the stories that unfolded actually happened.

The Lost Palace from Chomko & Rosier on Vimeo.

Devising an experience free from screens meant that visitors were free to focus on senses other than just sight, letting them truly be a part of history without distraction. For heritage sites and museums, this could mean widening access, boosting exhibit quality and ultimately keeping more visitors interested for longer.

4. Adding a new dimension to tourism

There’s nothing wrong with a traditional guidebook when you’re on holiday. But what if you were able to hear stories of the history of the landmarks you’re passing and the streets you’re traversing, along with first-person accounts of everyday life during that very period of history?

That’s what Hidden Florence – our collaboration with the University of Exeter – offers. The free smartphone app takes travellers on a tour of the city, guided by 1490s wool worker, Giovanni.

Including both the much-loved tourist sites and those that won’t appear in any guidebook, the app features both a modern and a detailed period map, with Giovanni bringing the city to life with tales of his neighbourhood and its people to create a colourful, lived experience.

For the tourism sector, the implications are massive: not only can AR enhance the visitor experience, but it can aid in the marketing of destinations, educate visitors, and give those who are unable to physically reach a location the opportunity to explore it from the comfort of their own home.

5. Allowing artists to unleash yet more creativity

Augmented reality can also make the experience of visiting an art gallery richer and more accessible, too. In September 2018, San Francisco’s Minnesota Street Project Galleries hosted Festival of the Impossible: a three-day exhibition centred around the melding of art with VR and AR.

As a reporter for WIRED stated after the event, “After experiencing each artists’ work, I realized the creations were not just technology demos, but that they gave the artists a chance to express their own ingenuity with technology in a way that’s never been this easy, nor this real”. It wasn’t just tech for tech’s sake: while some artists created works that came to life when viewed through an iPad screen, one artist also used AR nostalgically, inviting gallery visitors to step into her childhood home, where she also included chats with her grandmother.

6. Transforming artificial intelligence applications

AI chatbots, it seems, are everywhere – but by pairing AI with AR, some companies are creating truly impressive results.

Magic Leap’s Mica is an incredibly human-like AI – although not an “intelligent agent”. Mica’s introductory blog post states, “I won’t slip into your domestic life to make your everyday a little more palatable. I am an educator, agitator, companion, artist and guide”.

Viewed through the company’s AR glasses, Mica has no voice as yet – that will be coming later. What she does have is the ability to look you directly in the eye, to mimic your movements – to learn the ways in which you act to interact with you in the most suitable way.

Down the line, she will be able to interpret your emotions: noticing that you are happy when a particular friend visits and storing that in her memory, Already, those who have “met” Mica have described how – without words – she has signalled to them to perform an action (like hanging a picture frame on a wall) and has then written in the empty frame.

Fascinating stuff – and a development that has the potential to transform a number of industries. Avatars like Mica could offer customer service for consumer-facing brands, provide basic-level assistance at tourist and heritage sites, and even provide a valuable resource for engineers in the field.


From location-based soundscapes to immersive children’s theatre, virtually rebuilding lost heritage sites to the next generation of fiction writing, AR has the ability to add new perspectives to a person’s experience of material objects and their environment in all sorts of exciting ways.

Pokémon Go may have set the visual precedent, but the future of AR promises to be a feast for all the senses, and we’re excited to be a part of it.

For a deep dive on how we put together The Lost Palace aural AR tour, both creatively and tech-wise, download our free in-depth whitepaper here.

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