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Creating new customer experiences with digital technologies

Professor Andi Smart talks about using augmented reality and virtual reality to create innovative visitor experiences at cultural heritage sites.

This short interview was filmed at the University of Exeter recently with Professor Andi Smart who directs the Business School’s Centre for Simulation, Analytics and Modelling.

Andi is running a major project called VISTA AR in collaboration with a number of other university and industry partners. They are exploring the use of innovative digital devices to create new visitor experiences at major tourist attractions such as Exeter Cathedral here in the UK and Fougères Castle in northern France.

The project uses advanced technologies, such as eye tracking, geospatial positioning and text analytics, to gather intelligence about how visitors engage with their surroundings. This data is combined with demographic and psychographic information to develop virtual reality helmets, tablet and smartphone devices and immersive room experiences which help to bring history to life. For example, visitors can ‘meet’ characters from the past and are able to engage with previously inaccessible heritage artefacts. You can read more about the VISTA project here.

In the video, Andi makes clear that people wanting to work in emerging fields such as augmented reality and virtual reality will need to have good analytical skills. In particular, he demonstrates that the huge volumes of data being collected (for example social media data) require natural language processing techniques in order for businesses to develop meaningful information and actions from them. There are also significant entrepreneurial opportunities for people skilled in photogrammetry techniques who can create 3D models of film shot by drones.

Think about a cultural heritage site that you are familiar with. In what ways could digital developments like those illustrated here be applied to enhance the visitor experience? How easy might it be to find people with the skills needed to undertake such a project?

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