People finding smart phones under the tree this Christmas are being encouraged to experience the South Downs in a whole new way as the National Park becomes the first in the country to test QR codes and ‘Augmented Reality’.
New technology incorporated into 40 new waypost signs set up at nine sites along the 100 mile South Downs Way, which runs from one end of the South Downs National Park to the other, will allow visitors to ‘tap in’ to the signs and discover more information about the local area and nearby places of interest.
Andy Gattiker, Trail Officer for the South Downs Way, said:
“There are fascinating landscapes across the National Park where it’s just not appropriate to put up large display panels. By ‘tapping in’ to these small signs smartphone users will be able to discover all sorts of information about the land they’re walking through.
“People unwrapping smartphones this Christmas can use them in a whole new way and help us discover whether this technology could be rolled out right across the South Downs National Park in the future.”
Andrew Kerry-Bedell of IT’s in Conservation has developed the technology being used:
“The signs include QR codes and innovative Near Field Communication (NFC) Tags, the latter working in the same way as scanning your Oyster Card on the London Underground. Visitors scanning the signs with their smartphone’s built-in camera and QR code reader, or an NFC Tag scanning app, are led to a specially designed mobile web page telling them all about the area.
“Similar ‘touch in’ technology is also being rolled out on public transport in the South of England by Metrobus based in Crawley and Brighton and Hove buses.”
Details that visitors can uncover include map references, links to YouTube videos, photos, local history, audio commentary and information about the wildlife that lives nearby. Pictures at the top of each sign will also be used to trigger LAYAR Augmented Reality (AR) so that when the picture is scanned several floating image buttons appear on the smartphone’s screen. People can then press each of the touchscreen buttons to instantly link to web, audio, video, pictures, map trails and other content at each location.
Quick Response or QR codes are square two dimensional barcodes made up of black and white squares, and are recognised by most of the UK public. Near Field Communication Tags transmit their information when brought within one to three centimetres of an NFC enabled smartphone. NFC chips are pre-installed in most new smartphones, although the settings may need to be changed to switch on NFC scanning.
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