Virtual Reality

The Rise of Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality for “In-Person” Tourism

International tourists to Japan can expect greater integration of technology into attractions as destinations scale up to provide more immersive and engaging experiences.

Virtual reality (VR), which has been used by tour operators and other travel companies during the COVID-19 pandemic so that homebound people around the world can get a glimpse of other places, is now increasingly adopted for “in person” tourism.

The global virtual reality tourism market was worth $5 billion in 2021 and is expected to reach $24 billion by 2027, according to data from Statista. And research firm Global Market Estimates predicts that the augmented reality (AR) market will reach $4 trillion by 2030 thanks to the technology’s ability to “superimpose virtual objects onto reality using ‘smartphone or tablet, as well as providing information in real time’. .”

In Japan, the adoption of fifth-generation (5G) wireless technology, strong government support, and an increased range of applications for VR/AR technologies, are enabling the adoption of VR and AR in ” an increasingly wide range of industries, including tourism in the years to come”. years,” according to a report by the Japan External Trade Organization. Kyushu is an early adopter of virtual reality and augmented reality.


The former glory of Hara Castle is shown as visitors hold their VR-enabled tablets above the ruins. Photo: Kathryn Wortley

At Hara Castle in Minami-Shimabara City, Nagasaki Prefecture, very few fortifications remain, yet it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The castle was the site of the Shimabara Rebellion, the largest civil conflict of the Edo period (1603-1867) which resulted in the eventual expulsion of the Portuguese from Japan, and is a recognized site of Christians hidden in the region .

With such an incredible story, it was thought virtual reality could be a way to bring the site to life, according to a spokesperson for the town’s tourism association.

Visitors can walk around the site with a tablet which, when held above the ruins, shows images of what the original castle would have looked like, along with text describing what happened there .

“It really brings the history and the terrain into a clearer perspective,” said Shannon Lefebvre, a Tour Nagasaki representative whose customers have tried the experience. “Educated and experienced travelers” in particular, he added, are likely to find this technology beneficial to “enhance the subject.”


The character that users can see and hear via AR at Shimabara Castle Photo: Courtesy of Shimabara Castle

At Shimabara Castle in the nearby town of the same name, AR headsets allow visitors to view a selection of individual exhibits that appear to be floating in mid-air. It is even possible to manipulate them, such as flipping them or enlarging them for a better view.

Along with their use as an educational medium, virtual reality and augmented reality are also being adopted to showcase Japan’s modern culture and inject more fun into travel experiences.


Characters from the manga “Attack on Titan” appear through the AR app at Hita Station. Photo: Kathryn Wortley

In Hita, Oita Prefecture, tourism stakeholders have created an app based on “Attack on Titan”, a manga created by locally-born and world-renowned artist Hajime Isayama. Launched in 2020 in the domestic market, the app allows users to overlay famous places in history such as the Oyama Dam.

“Visitors from all over Japan have given us great feedback on the app and we are delighted that incoming tourists can now enjoy this new kind of experience at Hita for the first time,” a spokesperson said. from the Hita City Tourism Association.


Jurassic Island contestants use AR panel and gun to shoot carnivorous dinosaurs. Photo: Kathryn Wortley

Japan’s largest theme park, Huis Ten Bosch in Nagasaki Prefecture, has also capitalized on the rise of augmented reality and virtual reality. After acquiring an uninhabited island in Omura Bay off its Sasebo base, the operating company opened Jurassic Island in 2018. The attraction involves using an AR panel and gun to shoot dinosaurs carnivores and avoid herbivores while collecting a target number. jewelry. The AR scope changes color to indicate which dinosaur to shoot and displays the user’s in-game health level in real time.

Building on the success of Jurassic Island, Huis Ten Bosch has since launched a range of high-tech rides, including Dragon World Tour, which combines VR and a ride, and VR-King, which claims to be the world’s most popular VR roller coaster. fast in the world. world.

With the tourism industry seeking increasingly immersive and exciting attractions using these technologies, further disruption can be expected in the not-too-distant future.

According to a 2021 white paper published by the Japan Tourism Agency, “If the research and development of technologies that reproduce the force and skin sensations progress, it is possible that tourism content that allows people to experience snow-capped mountains and craters normally inaccessible to humans will be realized.”

Such a development would not only require the user to use a screen or wear a headset, but also to put on a special suit – another possible revolution for Japan’s travel industry.

© Japan today

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