The 1st Future Tourism Experience

The first Future Tourism Experience event took place on the 17th April at Kempton Park Racecourse in the Premier Suite. The event was about the intersect between customer demand and supplier’s innovation. Attendees had the opportunity to get hands on, fully immersed in a variety of experiences on display. In addition to this was a conference with a packed-out programme full of insightful talks about ‘how to enhance a visitor experience?’

To properly answer this question, a range of industry experts discussed specialist questions which you can read in detail below.

How technology is changing the leisure industry and creating new opportunities for visitor experience.

Kevin Blair
Chairman of the Birmingham Chapter – VR/AR Association, CEO – Atmos VR Ltd and Director – Dark Realities.

Kevin Blair the first speaker, has built up some impressive experience over the years with credentials in the fields of Event Management and Leadership. In addition to working on Virtual Reality since it’s early days (90’s) with the Royal Air Force (RAF), he has since gone on to successfully found companies and associations within the fields of virtual reality and now mixed reality.

On this occasion he turned his attention to tourism and discussed immersive technologies such as VR/AR and their impact on the tourism market. He explained the decision booking process of users, detailing how ‘90% of travellers search online and 80% book following that’ (Kevin Blair 2018). He also explained that ‘people spend longer on websites that provide virtual tours as evidenced by a 180 percent uplift in excursions to New York for Thomas Cook’ (Kevin Blair 2018).

He also explained that the future for UK visitor attractions is positive with a steady growth and a prediction of ‘359 million visitors to UK visitor attractions by 2022 influenced by increased overseas tourism, more holidaying at home and the popularity of special offers all important’ according to (Mintel).

He mentioned that when visitors arrive to the UK they can explore the latest technologies currently available such as projection mapping, augmented reality applications and even mixed reality experiences such as Dark Realities. He states that the next big change will be the release of 5G internet, giving unlimited real-time access. However, he pointed out that with faster information technology comes faster customer feedback.

An industry view of tech and attractions.

Richard Bryan
Managing Director – Qa Research

Future Tourism commissioned some original research by Qa Research. Richard who directed the research was present to explain it. The purpose was to capture key insights into the industries’ perspectives on new technologies mainly Virtual and Augmented Reality and find out those who were and weren’t already using them. So, they underwent phone calls with leading visitor attractions across different subject areas and locations and captured qualitative data on whether they were already using these new immersive technologies, and the outcome of doing so. Or rather why they hadn’t adopted these new technologies.

What they found was that there isn’t a clear cut yes or no answer but, rather it depends on the context of what you are trying to display. There are many circumstances where these technologies can add value creating a wow factor, deepening experiences through new means of storytelling giving the reputation of cutting edge and innovative and it can even create new revenue streams.

However, in opposition to this are family experiences where parents are looking to create memorable moments with their children, they feel these technologies can be too disruptive, by encouraging too many children to spend even more time isolated with a phone screen or a head set on, as opposed to a collective experience. This provided a major deterrent for some attractions due to the cost of investment against and unknown return of investment.
Augmented Reality, which is less intrusive however, also less immersive than Virtual Reality still has the ability to magnify the visitor’s imagination, creating a sense of fun and wonder. It Adds to the norm of physical objects & brings static exhibits to life, enables new exhibit sets without major changes to physical infrastructure. It also encourages visitors to experience different parts of the attraction. It can transform pre-existing things adding value with minimal set up and dismantle time. The rate to which it is effective is largely down to having a fast-sustainable internet connection, and it could detract from the authenticity of the attractions proposition.

VR and AR in Travel

Francisco Jeronimo Senior Research Director
European mobile devices at International Data Corporation

Francisco has an established reputation in the industry as a reliable source of information when discussing technology, especially in relation to mobile devices. He has featured in many media outlets, including national newspapers and mainstream news channels.

For the Future Tourism Experience event he discussed VR and AR in travel. In doing so he explained the evolution of user interfaces. He believes the next era of interfaces will be human which refers to our own natural movements, voice and thoughts as a way of interacting with technology in our environments in a way that is much more natural to humans.

He also went on to explain that that the rate at which users are adopting new technologies now has an is still increasing from ‘75 years to reach 50 million users of a telephone to just 19 days for Pokemon Go to reach 50 million users’ (Francisco Jeronimo 2018).

He believes there will be an increase in both VR and AR hardware adoption. With ‘VR adoption across all its different forms culmulated to £83.86 bn by 2021. He also believes there will be an increase in AR hardware adoption across all its forms with a culmulated £2.73 bn by 2021’ (IDC Quarterly AR/VR Headset Tracker, December 2017). With an even greater spending Worldwide with the UK positioned in the middle of the rankings for spending, and ‘the North American Continent as the highest spender spending £121.37 bn’ (IDC WW Semi-annual AR/VR Spending Guide, February 2017).

What is an immersive experience and how to get the best out of emerging technologies?

Solomon Rogers CEO
CEO – Rewind, Chairman – Immerse UK, Advisory Member – Bafta

Solomon Rogers is the CEO and Founder of Rewind Productions a prestigious Creative Production agency that utilises cutting edge technologies helping pioneer the reputation of the UK’s creative industry. A string of successful projects for some of the world largest and most innovative brands, has earnt Solomon Rogers a position on the Baftas Immersive Experiences Advisory Board and the position as the Chairman of Immerse UK. Solomon spoke about some of these previous projects as well as giving his own opinion on what is next for these immersive technologies.

The Redbull Air race is the fastest motorsport there is, a breath-taking experience although, as incredible as these air races are in terms of the athletes with their death defying skills. We are still human and as such planes going at 255 km even at 50 m off the ground is too fast for viewers. So, Rewind set to work combating this issue, through partnering up with Microsofts’ Hololens AR technology they enhanced the audiences experience by handing them much more viewing control, using a planes telemetry to give them a ghost plane and providing them with a life size scale model of the Edge 540 plane.

In the not so distant past people would have given you a strange look if you told them there would be such a thing as an electric car. However, innovation moves quickly and in this case extremely fast as there is now an electric powered motorsports race, the formidable Formula E. Rewind teamed up with Formula E, a renowned stunt man (Damien Walters), a prolific stunt driver (Alistair Whitton) and (Little Dot Studios) who provided traditional filming techniques. This collaboration saw Rewind use 360-degree filming techniques with a custom car rig. All together they gave fans unparalleled access to a gripping stunt a blind leap of faith over a racing car.
What is Dark Tourism

What is Dark Tourism

Peter Robinson
Head of the Centre for Tourism and Hospitality Management – Leeds Beckett University.

Peter Robinson is a highly respected Academic in the field of Tourism with expertise across several topics which includes visitor experience and dark tourism to name but a few. For this event he discussed both of these areas and explored connecting people, experiences and identities.

Many of us have been dark tourists throughout our lives but perhaps without knowing it as many would ask what even is ‘dark tourism’? Peter Robinson explains “it is the act of travel to sites of death, disaster or the seemingly macabre. Dark tourism is a complex, emotive, multi-dimensional, politically vulnerable, and ethically and morally challenging phenomenon” (Stone in Robinson, 2010).

There are two different types of Dark Tourism, Sites of Death and Suffering which is mainly centred around Education Orientation History, and Sites Associated with Death and Suffering which is mainly centred around Entertainment Orientation Heritage. An example of Dark Tourism would be to visit Dungeons or the Mary Rose Museum. “Dark tourism is an increasing trend that has been used as a lens to scrutinise broader socio-cultural considerations, managerial and political consequences, or ethical dilemmas” (Stone in Robinson, 2010.) Which therefore indicates its significance within the tourism industry.

How 360° film can complement ecotourism

Anthony de Unger
CEO, Biome Productions
Ted Savile
Co-founder / Producer, Biome Productions

With backgrounds in wildlife conservation and traditional filming. You can understand how Biome came to be, as a vibrant set of idealist creatives set about channelling their passion through a new technology. In doing so they ask how Can 360° films Compliment Ecotourism?

”In the end we will conserve what we love; we will only love what we understand; and we will understand only what we are taught” (Baba Dioum). Therefore, taking these words to their core as a part of their ethos, they recognize that in order to have a meaningful impact in conservation they need to help the audience understand, so if they teach them it will allow the audience to love and infer they will want to conserve. So, it therefore makes sense that they would use VR as their medium because it is more immersive than traditional filming techniques as it allows you to feel like you are there by giving you a more natural range of vision.

One of their projects where they have put this into practice is ‘A day in Djuma’ a live 360-degree video documentary project working in the Djuma Game Reserve at the Kruger National Park. They were invited by Wild Earth who produce Safari Live to take the brands first step into VR. This proved to be a challenging project due to constraints and the team having to basically throw original plans out, and adopt a flexible thinking on their feet approach. On top of that they became pioneers along the way adding a dimension of intrigue, by developing the world’s first 360-degree infrared camera, allowing them to capture a lions’ night time patrol.

They also went onto to explain using the Visit Australia case study as an example, how you can use 360° video to drive visitation and engagement and ultimately sales as evidenced by Tourism Australia who used a series of short 360° experiences aiming to bring their coastline to life.

Making something from nothing

Komal Sable
Chief Operating Officer – Tengio

As VR has become more common it has also dispersed, it now has multiple uses across different industry sectors. Komal describes the different uses of VR as ‘Reality Bespoke Immersive Technology Solutions, Creating 360 features in apps, VR games on the play store, Immersive VR experiences and of course, the usual bespoke software for mobile.’

She then went on to discuss why people travel, insisting it is because ‘travel is about feeling things emotional, immersive, engaging’ (Komal Sable 2018). She makes a point that with Virtual Reality there is a spectrum in terms of cost which also translates over into quality as unfortunately you get what you pay for, meaning a high-end performance comes at a high-end price.

Komal believes that ‘VR will lead to seeing more collaboration between the intersects of
Tour Operators, VR, Airline Operators and Tourism Boards’ (Komal Sable 2018). She believes as a business if you want to harness the potential of VR, you should ‘use VR to immerse the audience and start stirring up emotions to create a meaningful impact and then tie your brand to these experiences’ (Komal Sable 2018).

‘Technology cannot replace experiences it can only enhance them’ (Komal Sable 2018). As Virtual Reality evolves as a technology the element of realism will be enhanced creating hyper realism. Therefore, ‘expect to see more immersive travel and tourism experiences in the not-too distant future’ (Komal Sable 2018).

Not just seeing but also feeling art (Haptic interaction)

Dr Chi Thanh Vi
Research Fellow University of Sussex

Human Computer Interaction has grown as a field into what is now deemed a fundamentally important field of practice and research. As was mentioned earlier, experts predict that interfaces and the way we act with technology is changing, and we will see a big evolution in the coming years with predictions human interfaces will become the next wave of innovation within this sector. Interaction research has long considered the senses of vision and audition as a means by which to interact with, which does make sense in terms of human conversation. However, some pioneering researchers from the University of Sussex are breaking new ground. They are exploring how the sense of touch and taste can be used to enhance experiences. Dr Chi Thanh Vi was at the event to explain two of their latest research projects.

One of these projects was to enhance an art gallery experience by utilising all the senses, in particular the sense of touch through haptic technology. A new piece of technology mid-air haptics was used as part of a six weeks multi – sensory display named ‘Tate Sensorium’, an award winning immersive art display. Making use of ultrasound sequenced with the audio to make the hands feel touch, in this instance we are referring to one of four paintings, this one was by John Latham (Full Stop 1961) they depict ‘presence and absence, emphasising the paintings black and white duality’ (Tate IK Prize 2015).

They explore how you can make food levitate and even deliver the food into the recipient’s mouth through a series of ultrasonic waves opposite each other, creating tension (a space in which the food can float) with the power output varying dependent on the density of the food. They found this had a profound effect. The food tasted better according to participants. Therefore, this research raises a lot of new questions, although at first glance it seems like a gimmick once you read more into it, it questions how we determine taste, in some cultures they don’t use cutlery (insert quote) which has also been said to influence taste. Could this lead to new types of restaurant which sees a stronger connection between technology and food?

What a Tourist Guide will mean in the future

Shaon Talukder
CEO, Geo Tourist
Tammy Owens
Director of Business Development, Geo Tourist

GeoTourist founded by Shaon Talukder is a company that specialises in Audio Guides. They have created a platform for easily accessible ‘GPS-led audio guides from your smartphone, One app for the world, Doesn’t require the purchase of costly hardware, Free to download and is cloud based (Shaon Taukder 2018)’ They were cited as the “Future of travel tech” (Future Trends Report, Visit Britain, October 2017).

In the past flights and books in addition to people have always been the traditional means of travel, and guided tourism. However, since then we have seen the emergence of the internet which has given people much more accessibility to search for themselves although the internet is a murky waters in terms of credibility. When it comes to guiding you always want to know it is coming from a reliable resource so certain website like trip advisor serve a great purpose However, applications like Geo Tourist also play a fundamentally important one. As guided applications grow they help users by ‘detecting in real-time where you are, it unlocks the stories and secrets of the places you want to explore’ (Shaon Talukder 2018) further off the beaten track as opposed to just traditional landmarks.

Shaon predicts the future will see guides working with new technologies such as Disney’s avatar experience which uses Hololens Technology to help uses explore fictional worlds. The blend of guided applications and emerging immersive technologies no doubt creates seemingly endless opportunities. ‘New Definition and Market places for guides will come with certain challenges such as new Visitor Behaviour, opportunity for digital to support visitor experience.’ (Shaon Talukder 2018)

GeoTourist works on four levels turning the whole world into a playground, it is considered the future home of audio guides, it can give direction (in any language) A new kind of virtual reality Shareable – with those around you, and on social media A small selection of who we’re working with:

What can a digital audio guide do for your customer and ultimately your business?

James Ingram
Business Development Manager

James is the Business Development Manager for Don’t Miss a Word LTD they own several different brands serve several different markets within the tourism industry on an international scale. Two of their brands are Pop Guide and VOX UK.

James refers to Pop Guide as a high-performance mapping and audio-guide system, they were founded in 2001 and have since evolved, now catering to several specialist needs in order to cover market demands across different locations. James states that they beat their competitors in almost every way with the specific competitors he mentioned being mTrip, Travefy, CityMaps2Go and GoogleMaps.

The ethos of their product development is based around the ideals that ‘Guests want to feel at ease, they don’t want to feel lost, confused, unsure, unclear, perplexed, disoriented or bewildered’ (James Ingram 2018) Therefore they do away with ‘Cumbersome and outdated paper maps’ (James Ingram 2018) allowing the users to have ‘confidence and piece of mind through powerful features, customised content and advanced offline navagation’ (James Ingram 2018).

James claims that their products are future proofed and specifically tailored for a variety of different types of clients including POPGuide for Travel Agents, POPGuide for Hotels and POPGuide for Museums, Galleries & Venues.
Successful introduction of new VR experiences

The Happy Finish Story

Tom Evans
Exec Producer/Business Director-Happy Finish

Happy Finish are another Pioneering Creative Agency with offices both in the UK and abroad. They work across a range of the latest technologies including AI, CGI, VR and AR among others. They are a team of talented artists, working with some of the world’s leading brands including The Shard and The Royal Academy to name a few. Tom Evans their Business Director was present at the show to explain some of these projects and how they have become so successful.

For the Shard project they combined an Oculus Rift VR head set with motion simulation technology and created the world’s highest virtual reality slide experience. They used a custom camera rig and photorealistic CGI created by Chris Andrews to give the impression of truly leaving the shards viewing deck, 72 stories up and hurtling at speeds of 100mph with an 800ft drop beneath them, inside a glass slide. It certainly makes for a thrilling experience giving you the opportunity to see London like never before.

The Project they did for the Royal Academy was a collaboration between them and reputable artist Yinka Sonibare MBE in keeping with the artists original vision “Happy Finish were excellent to work with. I liked their attention to detail, and they were able to interpret my vision in an imaginative way” (Yinka Shonibare, MBE). To do this they channelled, the influences and styles of the original piece they used a very innovative technology. ’we applied pioneering ‘Style Transfer’ techniques based on Deep Learning Neural Networks to replicate Hamilton’s painting style and complete the unknown textures of the backs of the characters and elements of the environment’ (Happy Finish 2017).

VISTA Projects

Professor Andi Smart
University of Exeter, Director of the Centre for Innovation

Professor Andi Smart is a very experienced Researcher and Project Lead he was at the event to discuss his latest project. Which is ‘Exploring Visitor Experience Innovation through Systematic Text Analytics and Augmented Reality’ (Andi Smart 2018). The aim being to bring in ’an additional 20 % more visitors as a result of their research.’
This project is a large-scale project with a value of £6.83 million the project will last 4 years it has 8 partners and 4 deployment sites. ‘Project Overview – Visitor Intelligence, Economic Impact, Business Model Innovation, AR/VR & Animation, Putting the VISTA AR cloud based system in the hands of cultural heritage stakeholders’ (Andi Smart 2018). Cultural heritage sites that they are working with include ‘Gardens of Valloires, Fougères Castle, Botallack Mine, SW Coastal Path, Exeter Cathedral, Underwater’ Museum: Lorient (Andi Smart 2018).

He also explained how through a variety of different technologies they defined the visitor Journey collecting key information for the development of their project including using Geo Spatial Tracking and data such as ‘AOI Heat Maps (Audio vs Independent) – Great West Window and AOI Gaze Time’ (Andi Smart 2018). From the data they collected they focused on specific categories such as ‘Knowledge, Personalisation, Attitude & Behaviour, Relationship, Intepersonal Communication and Availability of staff’ (Andi Smart 2018). Although all of these are important factors, it was attitude and behaviour that received the highest number of visitors mentioning this category at 159 with the percentage of total feedback mentioning this feedback at 80% representing it as a key significance in their visitor experience.