Our current app project for Colchester Castle is a good example of how augmented reality can be used to complement and enhance the experience of the physical interpretation displays, adding a digital frame of reference that is engaging across a wide demographic.

Colchester’s historic castle has been closed for essential refurbishments and improvements, with just over £4 million invested in restoration and redevelopment, the landmark is now a must see 21st century attraction. The transformation includes a new museum which features many of the most important artefacts synonymous with Colchester’s rich heritage.

As a part of the museum’s digital developments, PEEL were commissioned to create a mobile app to complement the physical development of the castle, working with the new displays and interpretation to add another dimension to the visitor experience. The app, utilising augmented reality, enables a wide range of users to engage fully and richly with the museum collections and stories resulting in a unique and interactive experience. Its content speaks to all types of visitor and has been translated into multiple languages to reflect the museum’s EU funding.

Augmented reality, or AR, is the overlay of digital data upon the live view of a physical real-world environment. In our visitor attraction apps, augmented reality is used to display ‘hidden’ content that the user is encouraged to discover. Interactive graphics, audio, video, 3D models, animations, 360 degree panoramas and games are overlaid onto the device’s real world camera view, digitally enhancing what the user can see and hear, beautifully complementing any physical interpretation panels.

Specifically for Colchester, we’ve created complementary virtual content, triggered by the castle’s physical attributes and objects on display. This means that the physical infrastructure of the museum is not disturbed and the content is not reliant on QR codes or markers. Some of the content includes:

• A full 3D reconstruction with head, hair, beard and blood of a decapitated Trinovantian skull on a spike!
• A 360 degree panorama of the recreated Roundhouse interior when stood at its centre.
• A full colour AR recreation of Roman Tombstones, Longinus & Facilis, which were destroyed in the Boudicca revolt to their full former glory.
• 360 degree visualisations of; The Norman Great Hall and the Royal Chambers as they would have been in the castle’s hey day.
• A historical reconstruction video of a Roman townhouse.
• Embedded social media game.
• … and much more!

In order to allow all visitors to enjoy the app, we supported in the procurement and installation of hardware solutions, advising on which devices to purchase for hiring. With a huge range of information for visitors, both image and text based and with important contact information, our app greatly enhances visitor experience – and this is just phase 1.

Watch this space for details of our wider Colchester app that is currently in development. This will include a GPS enabled map with walking routes taking in historical points of interest throughout the town.


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