Leveraging Pervasive Games for Tourism: An Augmented Reality Perspective

Leveraging Pervasive Games for Tourism: An Augmented Reality Perspective

Rui Nóbrega (FEUP/INESC TEC, Porto, Portugal), João Jacob (FEUP, Porto, Portugal), António Coelho (FEUP/INESC TEC, Porto, Portugal), João Ribeiro (FEUP, Porto, Portugal), Jessika Weber (NHTV, University of Applied Sciences, Breda, Netherlands) and Soraia Ferreira (FEUP, Porto, Portugal)
DOI: 10.4018/IJCICG.2018010101
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Creating an augmented reality (AR) urban tourism application presents several interactivity challenges on how to convey an engaging multimedia experience on-site. This article describes a methodology for fast prototyping of multimedia mobile applications dedicated to urban tourism storytelling with special focus on AR techniques. Following the lessons learned in previous applications the systematic creation of location-based augmented reality (LBAR) applications is explored in this article. The goal is to create serious games for tourism that follow a main narrative but where the story can automatically adapt itself to the current location of the player, assimilate possible detours and allow posterior out-of-location playback. Adaptable stories can use dynamic information from map sources such as points of interest (POI), elevation or virtual buildings. The article discusses and presents solutions for media acquisition, interactive storytelling, game-design interface and multi-disciplinary coordination for mobile app development.
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The implementation of context-aware mobile AR applications into tourism provides many benefits for the tourist experience. These apps can be used to enhance visitor learning in cultural heritage sites (Lombardo & Damiano, 2012) or advance the interaction between the visitor and tourist artifacts (Kim & Schliesser, 2007) and often assume the form of games. Games have the power to create more engagement with the tourist destination through storytelling (Paay et al., 2008; Stenros, Holopainen, Waern, Montola, & Ollila, 2011) playfulness and mobile learning. These stories may be fictional or based on historical events.

The demand for the fast creation of such games is increasing, with a large demand for changing new content to be delivered at a high pace. This requires new approaches for multimedia content creation beyond traditional field research. This includes using geo-location utilities and frameworks (Jacob & Coelho, 2011; Matyas et al., 2008) to gather points of interest (POI) or mining social networks (Papadopoulos, Kompatsiaris, Vakali, & Spyridonos, 2011) in order to get collaborative feedback from other tourists or visitors.

The use of mobile applications for mobile devices is rapidly growing and has become apparent for the world’s largest industry – travel and tourism. With more than $6 trillion direct and indirect economic impact of the industry, tourism has a huge market to facilitate innovation. Tourists use mobile devices before (Gretzel, Fesenmaier, Lee, & Tussyadiah, 2011), during and after their holidays to retrieve geographic information (Tussyadiah & Zach, 2012), to mediate tourist sites (Kennedy-Eden & Gretzel, 2012) or to share experiences in social networks. Falling roaming charges will facilitate further increasing usage of these applications abroad. The nature of tourism is to create extraordinary experiences (Pine & Gilmore, 1999), thus there is a constant search for innovative tools and new technologies to enhance the tourist experience.

Smartphones, with the latest GPS-technology and built-in camera, enable players to use the real world as the playground and take gameplay outside into the real world. While the quantity and quality of mobile devices are increasing, mobile gaming attracts a wide range of user groups playing in different contexts (Carrigy, Naliuka, Paterson, & Haahr, 2010).

Recent advancements provide more people than ever access to hardware and new mobile game experiences (Wetzel, Blum, Broll, & Oppermann, 2011).

Mobile gaming is lately evolving in travel and tourism opening new forms of creating enhanced experiences for tourists. Location-based (Jacob & Coelho, 2011; Weber & Dickinson, 2018), Augmented Reality (AR) (R Nóbrega, Cabral, Jacucci, & Coelho, 2015), Pervasive or Serious Games (Marsh, 2011) open the possibility to create deep, personalized and interactive experiences tourists are striving for by actively engaging the tourist with places and people throughout gameplay. This creates a deeper understanding and distinct experiences for the tourist with his immediate environment applying playful and gameful concepts.

To gain an understanding of tourists’ requirements for such games, the following research question was taken into consideration: how to tell a story in the city with a multimedia system, making the user discover important locations in the city, understand its history and provide an autonomous and, at the same time, social interaction to create engaging tourist experiences.

An important requirement is to create a fast prototype using a multidisciplinary team in a short amount of time following an iterative design process.

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