Seymourpowell designs app to make Stirling the “world’s first” AR city

The free app hopes to boost tourism in the city by offering an augmented layer of information while “gamifying local history”.

The new Stirling XP app allows the Scottish city of Stirling to become “the first fully Augmented Reality city in the world” thanks to a project by Stirling Council, BT and Seymourpowell.

Using Google’s new Geospatial platform and making use of Stirling’s 2021 investments in fibre and 5G networks, the project sees Stirling the first city to “deploy geospatial technology in a ‘city-wide’ project”, according to Chris Doughty, head of immersive experiences at Seymourpowell.

The app seeks to use interactive information, graphics and 3D models – as well as rewards and incentives – to “gamify” the historic city in order to boost its tourism after a pandemic slow-down.

An example of wayfinding in the app. Image: Stirling Council

While Stirling’s tourist destinations include the National Wallace Monuments and Stirling Castle the city centre “is rarely considered a tourist destination in itself”, Doughty explains.

One aspect of the project is virtual wayfinding, which offers a solution to the fact that much of the city is a conservation area, “placing restrictions on physical signage – both in terms of how it looks and where it can be placed”, Doughty says. Through the app, “large virtual signposts” at key junctions will direct visitors to a selected destination, but “unlike Google maps or the like”, he adds, “these waypoints create a route that is more enjoyable and engaging”.

The “Heads Up Display (HUD) mode”, will bring to life “hidden” stories in the architecture, such as “showing you what the street you are standing in looked like 100 years ago”, or reconstructing the “original Stirling Bridge from Wallace’s famous battle site”.

Image: Stirling Council

However, gamification can also offer added incentives to explore the city, according to Seymourpowell.

“Visitors who, for example, climb the steps of the National Wallace Monument will be rewarded with a 3D model of the landmark”, Doughty says. An exclusive view will become a “virtual souvenir”, Doughty adds.

Other gamified elements include “a quest for virtual wolves, lions and unicorns which are dotted around the city” to create a “personalised coat of arms”, while rewards range from social media filters – featuring war paint and traditional highland dress – to “detailed 3D models of key buildings and attractions”, Doughty says.

Stirling Council invested £200,000 in the project via funding from the Scottish Government’s Place Based Investment Programme.

In addition to boosting tourism, both council leader Chris Kane and Go Forth Stirling BID project director Danielle McRorie-Smith highlight the opportunities for local businesses to use the app, which, according to Seymourpowell, has a framework that is designed to be added to.

“The many independent and national businesses represented by the BID will benefit from a new way of promoting the experiences, goods and services they have to offer – whether that’s through the use of interactive posters and artwork or giving visitors the chance to explore inside buildings without ever leaving the footpath”, McRorie-Smith says.

She adds, “this is an exciting initiative which really taps into the expectations of visitors – especially those of the younger generation who grew up with technology”.

Chris Doughty from Seymourpowell, Stirling Council leader Chris Kane, and BT’s Alan Lees. Image: Stirling Council

Doughty comments on how the project “firmly positions Stirling as a world-class digital destination”, demonstrating “how Metaverse technology, when considered at an infrastructure level, can transcend the hype and actually deliver a better experience for people.

“Stirling Council have been farsighted and brave enough to lay the groundwork for a new paradigm for visitor experience in their city, which can evolve and grow with the needs and aspirations of the region.”

In the next phase of the app, VR headsets will allow those with restricted mobility to see the view from the Crown of the National Wallace Monument – only accessible by 246 steep steps – to allow the project to also “act as an exemplar of accessibility and inclusion”, Seymourpowell comments.

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