At Jam Creative Studios we specialise in the creation of immersive digital visitor experiences using augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR) and mixed reality (MR).
Many of the experiences we create are in rural areas, among them castles, ancient ruins and National parks. Invariably, very few of them are connected. All too often the main barrier to use of tourism apps and experiences is lack of connectivity and it’s a constant source of frustration, for both app users and developers.
We have spent many years creating digital experiences that require no connectivity so that we can ensure a seamless and uninterrupted visitor experience. It comes with some drawbacks – content must be heavily optimised in order to avoid the creation of large, unwieldy apps or users having to download additional bundles, but until now the pros of offline apps have far outweighed the cons.
So when we were approached to partner with the 5G Wales Unlocked team we were really keen to see whether 5G infrastructure really could unlock greater possibilities for immersive and engaging visitor experiences in our rural heritage sites.
Off we trooped to Raglan Castle to discover the stories it has to tell and how we could use 5G connectivity to tell them in the most engaging way. Once the most opulent of non-Royal residences, Raglan has been a statement of wealth and status on a magnificent scale. Deliberately destroyed by Parliamentary forces during the Civil War, its still an incredible heritage site today, but the first question many visitors ask is ‘what was it like in its heyday?’
“We were really keen to see whether 5G infrastructure really could unlock greater possibilities for immersive and engaging visitor experiences in our rural heritage sites. ”
Recreating the castle digitally with augmented reality seemed like an obvious place to start; it would allow us to challenge the connectivity question by developing cloud anchor technology to accurately scale and place the 3D model we created directly onto the ruin. But how could we ground the experience in the history of the castle and make it more fun and engaging for family audiences? Cue the 1646 siege of Raglan castle. For phase one of the project we’ve created an AR siege of Raglan game, where players can place a virtual cannon on the ground in front of them, then aim and fire it at the great tower and castle walls to prompt surrender from the Royalist troops defending from within. Players will need to keep moving to avoid being hit by Royalist cannon fire and will be able to score additional points if they can hit the cannons high up on the battlements.
But what of the rest of the Castle’s stories and how to bring them to life?
Henry Somerset, the first Marquis of Worcester and Raglan’s owner through the civil war, was a strong supporter of King Charles I; In fact, he paid for many of the Kings troops. Following defeat at Naseby in 1645, Charles retreated to Raglan to spend time with the Somersets and is said to have played bowls on the bowling green. For phase two we’re in the process or recreating an AR version of that game of bowls, enabling visitors to walk around a cast of characters and potentially join in the game.
With a project exploring the very latest the technology can offer, it was a happy coincidence to discover that one of Raglan’s owners was an inventor, fascinated by new advances in science and engineering himself. In 1663 Edward Somerset, the Second Marquis of Worcester published ‘A century of Inventions and Scantlings’, a tiny book with big ambitions. It offers an insight into an inquisitive mind at a time when ideas of science and engineering were beginning to take off. While many of Edward’s musings are frankly bonkers, some of them offer a glimmer of things to come, in fact, he is credited with inventing the first steam engine. The existing heritage interpretation at Raglan Castle already highlights ‘Edward the Inventor’ as a key character in Raglan’s story and several ‘crazy inventions’ are sequestered around the castle with a trail encouraging visitors to work out which of the seven had actually been one of Edward’s ideas.
We’re planning to build on this with AR castle quests that will encourage visitors to find and collect virtual, period, household objects which they can use to build their own virtual invention and hopefully reveal more virtual recreations of how the castle once looked. We’re hoping that these recreations can help form the basis for content for the immersive classroom project.
We’re excited to partner with Wales 5G Unlocked to see how 5G technology can enable us bring more innovation and interactivity to our rural tourism destinations. Watch this space for future developments.