Londoners can now see the downtown core with a colourful, otherworldly perspective.
Using the app Engage ARt, users will be able to explore the Forest City through augmented reality (AR), created by the London-based developer EXAR Studios.
“We’re proud of the product that we have today, which allows you to walk through London’s downtown area and experience historical experiences or artistic experiences that are 3D, which is very different from what you would experience on your screen typically,” said Shishir Pande, EXAR Studio’s chief strategy officer.
When the app is in use, objects placed in front of the smartphone’s camera appear to be digitally three-dimensional on the screen, allowing for users to take photos and videos of what they find. It has various “adventure packs” exclusively for London and St. Thomas that are available for download.
The Digitize Dundas pack encourages users to visit landmarks such as the Rhino in front of Museum London, or to take a ghost tour around the Middlesex County Courthouse.
Another pack lands in Old East Village, to sights like the Banting House Brick Campaign.
“There’s lots of stuff for you to see, and you’ll learn a lot more about the local arts history and culture scene here,” said Pande. “We hope that it’ll build a sense of community for everyone and a sense of connectedness.”
The latest pack, called the Forest City Playground Game, launched on July 20 and takes users on a tour down Market Lane. The visuals augment the lane’s mural, and add three-dimensional birds and trees to the area.
The experience was created in collaboration with Downtown London and Tourism London.
“Downtown London is excited to participate in this innovative project and add another unique experience to the list of things to do downtown,” sayid Barbara Maly, executive director of Downtown London. “The murals in Market Lane add such vibrancy to our core and pairing it with an augmented reality experience just furthers the draw for visitors.”
EXAR Studios first opened in 2019, and created virtual reality experiences for individuals living in senior homes.
After the pandemic began, EXAR pivoted to rethink how it could bring AR to the wider community. It launched the first version of Engage ARt in August 2020, and has been building on it ever since.
“We did what we always do, which is make people happy,” said Pande. “We worked on the user experience that would allow people to experience their community in a safe and friendly way. That also encouraged people to experience our local businesses, and to see our communities as a place where they could go safely, even during the pandemic.”
Engage ARt is available for free on the Apple App Store and Google Play.