20 Nov 2020

Hong Kong Observation Wheel launches world-first AR App presented by AIA

One of Hong Kong’s most iconic tourism attractions, the Hong Kong Observation Wheel in partnership with AIA, has launched an AR App which elevates the visitor experience through a world-first Augmented Reality (AR) experience to give a historical perspective on the city. Through visual immersions of Hong Kong in the 1890s and 1960s, the App encourages visitors to unlock the beauty of the harbour and learn about the city’s development. The free mobile application is available on IOS and Android, in English, Traditional Chinese and Simplified Chinese.

Speaking of the App launch, Stuart A. Spencer, Group Chief Marketing Officer, AIA Group Limited, said: “We are excited to support the introduction of this world-first technology that will provide an enriching customer experience for people of all ages and ensure that the Hong Kong Observation Wheel remains an iconic destination for many years to come. Our continued investment is a symbol of our deep commitment to the people of Hong Kong, where we have been proud to operate since 1931. The Wheel and AIA Vitality Park provide an important channel to promote health and wellness, which are at the core of our purpose. We look forward to bringing more bold new innovations to AIA Vitality Park that will enable us to engage the people of Hong Kong and help them to live Healthier, Longer, Better Lives.”

Produced by venue operators The Entertainment Corporation, a multitude of community partners and overseas technology experts were engaged in introducing the world-first AR App to Hong Kong’s iconic Harbour front. Celebrating the city’s rich history and heritage, the Hong Kong Observation Wheel AR App gives visitors the opportunity to see Hong Kong from three perspectives: Beyond the Beginning (1890-1920); City in Transition (1960-1980); and Present Day. When riding the Wheel, the App overlays a full 360-degree visual recreation of bygone eras onto current sights:

  • The 1890s-1920s presents landmarks such as the original Peak Tram, Lion Rock, and first-generation Star Ferry Pier.
  • The 1960s-1980s showcase Hong Kong’s economic progress and expansion of manufacturing, with squatter villages of Lion Rock, The Hilton International, and Kai Tak Airport.
  • The journey culminates in the present day, including modern-day visualisations of the city’s classic landmarks and newer developments around the harbour.

Alex Gibbs, Commercial Director at Hong Kong Observation Wheel said: “We are delighted to bring this world-first technology to Hongkongers. The AR App is a result of industry-wide collaboration, thanks to the investments by AIA, dedication of global and local technology experts, and support from the people and institutions of Hong Kong. Using this cutting-edge technology, we enhance the experience of one of Hong Kong’s most loved attractions, and we look forward to presenting more developments in the future that continue to celebrate Hong Kong.”

Neighbour to the Wheel, the Hong Kong Maritime Museum, was a key source of inspiration from the onset, providing maps, photographic references, and multiple ship models, that have all been recreated digitally in the App. The historical journey was mapped out and authenticated by established Hong Kong historians Ko Tim-keung and Jason Wordie, who have both played an integral role in identifying and telling the stories of the territory’s transformation. Crowd sourcing amongst the Hong Kong community to find relevant historical images was also pivotal in creating a unique and accurate representation of Hong Kong’s past.

The interactive experience has been made possible due to bespoke technology that combines both gaming and AR technology. Developed by industry experts, the App is the first AR experience on a moving platform, where the movement of the Wheel is reflected on the users’ device. The gaming technology is showcased in 3D scenes in the historical eras, whilst the AR mode in Present Day is used to overlay the points of interest over the actual view. To ensure the highest level of accuracy, the App receives several sources of data at one time, including GPS data, camera scans, and compass data to track the gondola’s location, supplemented by telemetry data to pinpoint the gondola’s angle.

The new App gives Hongkongers looking for staycation ideas a new tourism attraction experience that invites people to return again and again.

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