Locast updates the travel experience with a new vision of augmented reality
par Elsa Sidawy | 08.30.10
The project Locast Travel from the MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) Mobile Experience Lab is advancing augmented reality and the tourism experience by helping travelers plan their itinerary according to their interests, and making them both producers and consumers of content.
Locast Travel allows users to access video content that corresponds to their location in a city. Once they register on the Locast platform, directly on the site or via Facebook, and download the application, the visitor can watch videos produced by both the official media and other visitors and inhabitants at or about their current location, identified automatically by the mobile phone’s GPS. Users can then in turn produce videos that will be integrated into the network.” It is therefore possible to watch what has been produced by the official media while checking out the experimental info produced by locals and tourists,” Dr Federico Casalegno, project manager at MEL, remarked. “We tried to rethink the idea of space 2.0: A new vision for augmented reality whose idea is to distribute content in the area and make it accessible.”
Four phases to make the visit a complete experience
The first phase of this experiment took place in Venice, in partnership with RAI, Italian state television, which provided images from his archives. “The project idea was to mix the community of tourists with local inhabitants, so as to preserve the local memory of Venice,” says Federico Casalegno.
For this, the Mobile Experience Lab researchers divided the tourist experience in four phases: the first is the at-home preparation where they map their interests. The content is then downloaded to their mobile so they can continue preparing for the trip by plane, for example, while having access to ancillary information such as weather, exchange rates, and public transport timetables which help them get smoothly from the airport to their hotel. During this period, they can also watch videos downloaded as podcasts to help map their future route in the city. When on the ground, the phone alerts users when video content is available related to their shortlisted interests. The concept of augmented reality is not new, but this device makes choices that are based both on location and the user’s taste. Finally, the user can share their own travel experience through social networks, like Facebook and Twitter.
For those who do not have a mobile
The Wearable is a communicating object, conceived as part of the project, so as not to disadvantage those who do not have a suitable mobile. When it hits the stores (it is still at the prototype stage), this portable tool will offer visitors the opportunity to experience another way of sightseeing: the videos are geotagged and the Wearable, with its digital compass and sensors, will vibrate when the user moves to a place connected to a video. When visitors return back home, this tool can be used like any digital photo frame disseminating photos and videos taken during the stay. The moving object could even be offered as gifts to friends who can share the experience by making the same journey.
The first phase of the project was carried out with Nokia, but should be picked up by iPhone and Android platforms as well. Locast will be available at several other Italian cities next and “maybe soon French and Spanish cities,” Federico Casalegno hopes.
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Translated by Genny Cortinovis