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Vista-AR to use virtual and augmented reality to revolutionise the way we experience cultural heritage sites


Exeter Cathederal

Lead Partner: University of Exeter
Total Project Budget: 7.8 million euros
European Regional Development Fund contribution: 5.3 million euros
Number of Partners: 8 (5 French, 3 English)
Project Duration: 4 years

Vista-AR is a 7.8 million euro project, led by the University of Exeter, that will develop and implement a range of exciting augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) experiences for a number of tourist attractions in the South of England and the North of France.

The project will work closely with Exeter Cathedral and Fougères castle in France, to develop an understanding of visitor experiences, create new VR and AR digital tools, and explore new business models and opportunities presented by digital technology.

VISTA AR will explore the use of different digital devices to create new visitor experiences. Virtual reality helmets, tablet and smartphone devices, and immersive room experiences will be used to bring history to life, allowing visitors to meet characters from the past and providing access to inaccessible heritage artefacts.

Once developed the digital tools will be used to create new digital experiences in a further four locations; the National Trust Tin Coast, and South West Coastal Path in the UK, as well as the Lorient Submarine Museum and the Gardens of Valloires in France.

The tools developed by the project will be made available to other UK and French cultural heritage sites on a cloud-based system where they can be easily accessed and adapted to the needs of each specific heritage location.

The project is a major step in providing cultural heritage sites with an effective way to enhance visitor experiences while increasing visitor numbers and revenue.

Professor Andi Smart from the lead partner, the University of Exeter, said: “This is a unique opportunity to capitalise on the wealth of cultural heritage assets found on both sides of the channel.

“Innovation often occurs at the interfaces. This project combines Anglo-French expertise in technology, animation, augmented and virtual reality, and business to innovate both the visitor experience and the business models of cultural heritage sites. It provides cultural heritage stakeholders with the opportunity to explore ‘digital possibilities’ which are otherwise largely cost prohibitive.”