Google partners with Singapore Tourism Board for AI-powered guided tours

One trend that started to gain traction in the last few years is the adoption of virtual and augmented reality in the travel, tourism and attractions space. Contrary to initial belief, these tools were never designed to replace travel, but to enhance the experience by adding a layer of interactivity and accessibility to a destination.

As travel and hospitality continue to rebuild, major tech players have used this time to blend improved versions of AR and VR tech in the industry, giving us a glimpse at a hybrid future of travel.

At Google I/O 2023 on Wednesday, Google’s ARCore and the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) launched a preview of two new immersive AR experiences around Merlion Park and Victoria Theatre & Concert Hall in the Visit Singapore app. Powered by Google’s ARCore Geospatial API, visitors will be able to embark on an immersive guided tour. 

“Google’s AR and geospatial technologies have expanded the possibilities of complementing travel experiences with highly immersive and informative experiences when exploring a destination,” said Miguel de Andrés-Clavera, group product manager at Google Partner Innovations.

“We’re thrilled to work with the Singapore Tourism Board as the first Geospatial trusted tester for travel and harness the power of AR technology to augment the physical world and heighten the element of helpful surprises for travelers and local explorers of Singapore.”

“We hope to harness the power of AR technology to augment the physical world and heighten the element of helpful surprises for all travelers and local explorers of Singapore,” he said.

Google launched the ARCore Geospatial API in 2022 to help developers create world-anchored experiences.  

The API provides access to global localization — the same technology that has been powering Live View in Google Maps since 2019. Based on Google’s Visual Positioning Service (VPS), developers can track the position, orientation, and place virtual content in the real world with realistic lighting and physics.

It also uses a variety of AI techniques to match images from the scanned environment against our model of the world made up of trillions of 3D points from Street View images. This means that for users, just by pointing their camera, their device understands exactly where it is, which way it is pointed and where the AR content should appear, almost immediately.

Faster internet speeds, as well as the adoption of 5G, certainly bolsters the experience.

Speaking to WiT, Wong Ming Fai, chief technology officer at the Singapore Tourism Board said, “STB has been actively looking for tourism use cases in Extended Reality (XR), an umbrella which encompasses all immersive technologies including Augmented Reality (AR). XR has strong potential to enhance the on-ground visitor experience by bringing characters and stories to life, immersing visitors in the history of a location or transporting them to an alternate realm.

He added, “Google’s ARCore Geospatial API uses a combination of Visual Positioning System (VPS) and Global Positioning System (GPS) to deploy 3D AR content that can be precisely anchored to specific points such as buildings in Singapore. This allows us to deliver high-quality, entertaining and visually impactful tour experiences to visitors who can then engage with well-known places of interest in brand new ways.”

Singapore Tourism Board (STB) is Google’s first tourism partner in their global ARCore Early Access Program to co-ideate new innovative tourism use cases.

With this new AR guided tour in its Visit Singapore app, visitors can follow Merli, Singapore’s well-loved tourism mascot on an immersive tour of Singapore’s iconic landmarks and hidden gems. Using both Unity and the ARCore Streetscape Geometry API, each stop features an AR experience that enables visitors to engage with Singapore in new ways – from discovering the best local hawker food to uncovering history through scenes from the past.

One of the tour’s highlights takes place at the Victoria Theatre and Concert Hall, where visitors can witness a larger-than-life string quartet performing on top of the national monument. Google’s Visual Positioning System powers the precise AR effects.

*This article originally appeared in WebinTravel.

Make the world your adventure with Singapore Tourism Board

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