Is this really Augmented Reality? Banner
02 Jul 2014

Recently one of the skignz founders came across an ad on Facebook with regards to the new app The Shard is one of the brand new sight-seeing attractions in London. Built at a staggering 306M – 23 storeys, it’s fair to say that the views you will get from

Is this really Augmented Reality?

Recently one of the skignz founders came across an ad on Facebook with regards to the new app The Shard is one of the brand new sight-seeing attractions in London.

Built at a staggering 306M – 23 storeys, it’s fair to say that the views you will get from the shard will simply be amazing. Built with offices, restaurants, arcade and even a hotel, it has everything a person could ask for when staying at the Shard.

Complementing the skyline of London, the Shard is defiantly an attraction to be visited when visiting the great city of London.

With being one of the new great attractions in London, is it fair to say that they have created something cutting edge (pardon the pun) quite striking and wonderful.

However some of their technology is not the best attending to every visitor/customer’s needs. 

The Shard has a app for smartphones which you can view content on up the Shard which people can download prior to attending, however when at the Shard it was apparent that the app only worked when you signed up to their Wi-Fi which still did not work when we tried to sign up over a period of about two hours. 

There should be no restriction as to visitors having to sign up to their Wi-Fi when visiting the Shard and this is not stated and made clear to people prior to attending. Being the best attraction is great however technology is a vital aspect that needs to work for every customer attending or it immediately will make the Shard have that lower immediate rating, which is not what they will have aimed for.

Maybe the Shard should look at making the app useable when attached to any Wi-Fi or network.

The journey however that the customers will get from the moment they visit the Shard all the way to the top is very enlightening.

As you go into the Shard you have video screen in the main entrance. The video screens set the historic context of the Shard and the London Bridge location of it. 

Through short films being shown on the video screen guests who are visiting the Shard will be able to see London’s diverse communities, famous streets and places across the capital.

People can also get to know information about the Shard and London, as well as being able to watch the graphics and see how the building is closely linked to the cities transport system, showing the lifts move inside the building and the trains that run underneath both in real time viewing.

As well as having the video screens in the entrance showing a lot of information to guest’s, there is also the range of lifts that the Shard has with detail inside them all.

The lifts travel at six meters per second, making the total lift journey time from Level 1 to level 68 around 60 seconds. 

They each have constantly changing graphics on the ceiling of the lift including lighting amazing people as the make their way up the Shard. 

As guests exit the lift onto the corridor they are welcomed with a map of London extending from the floor up and across all the walls.

Guests follow an image of the River Thames curving along the floor and see the capital mapped geographically around them in 200 sentences scrawled on the walls and floor, each describing a different part of the city.

The second lift that the guests enter into is the same experience as they would have had with the first lift with the animated ceilings. The second lift takes guest out onto the floor with window views of London obscured with window images of the range of cloud types that you may see – not really stating a viewing point for guests and they are images they may see.

The third lift takes you to the triple-height, light-filled, main viewing gallery where breath-taking, 360 degree views for up to 40 miles (64km) over the capital are revealed.

Tell:scopes on the viewing deck
London city can be seen on 12, free to use, ‘Tell:scopes’ – ultra high-tech digital telescopes that are being used in Europe for the first time.  The Tell:scopes enable guests to explore the city around them in real time, as well as offering alternative (pre-recorded) day and night-time views.  Fully interactive, they are able to identify over 200 famous landmarks and places of significant interest and offer information about them in 10 languages.

However London can be seen from 12 free to use ‘Tell:scopes’, we question was this the AR they talked about or is this in the app that could not be accessed?

If it is these ‘Tell:scopes’ then they were awkward to use and certainly not AR in the live sense as they show views of London day, evening, night and back to various key times in history – Tudor, Georgian and Victorian etc...

Higher viewing deck - open air

Whilst watching people use these we managed to get close enough to listen and hear their comments which varied around:

"This is terrible, truly awful..."
"Its very hard to use?"
"This is not what I expected, the graphics are like an old school computer loading up!"
"My iPhone has better camera than this!"
"Why am I getting a countdown clock as the top?"
"The telescope viewfinder in Brighton, when I was a kid was better than this!"

"How can this be Augmented Reality, when they show me at night time, when it’s mid-afternoon and daylight?"

When we tried to use it the graphics loaded up in 'square blocks' so when you went from day to night, 2 parts of the image loaded up in the dark image, then the rest did, which gave for a very disjointed experience and not in keeping with the whole image we had for The Shard, especially everything else being so cutting edge and hi tech in the building.

A further lift and two flights of stairs takes you to the next viewing gallery on floor 72 where the experience changes and although you are surrounded by the glass walls, all of the ceiling is open and exposed to the elements and a nice breeze swept through the place!

No ‘Tell:scopes’ on this floor, again just lost more people using smart phones and mobile devices for photos, filming!

NO one we spoke to had managed to access the 'elusive' Shard app content.

So after a while of enjoying the view and trying to understand what key buildings were and especially those at the furthest part of our sight range and also those mixed up with the atmospheric conditions (London smog) it was difficult to pick out.

We decided to leave and make the long journey back down in the lifts to terra firma!

Although pleasant at the top and one to tick off the bucket list, we have no reason to return... especially not to pay £29 per person to see if their app works on another day!

In our opinion, having to access the Wi-Fi and it not automatically letting you pick it up with no login significantly hampered our visitor experience!

The clearly expensive installation of the ‘Tell:scopes’ were extremely disappointing, so much so that we did not just think, they were ok but more than enough that we would write this whole blog post to share our experiences!

We are massive advocates of innovation especially in information based AR, which this, we feel clearly is not!

We do wish however, that it was quite the opposite! As this is a beautiful building and a key focal point for visitors from across the globe, yet the whole 'shard experience' engages you from when you walk in, right up till you leave on the escalator to street level, yet the 'key' (advertised on facebook) offering of helping people view London in a new way, in a way that’s informative and engaging was not only 'not good enough' it was a disaster of biblical proportions.

We can say this because we know what we were expecting and the rest of the journey was so good and this part was so bad that it amplified the gap between the rest of the offering and these stainless steel Armadillos with tablets welded into their backs with a 1980's user experience on them!

Using skignz instead!
We have also looked at our own technology and what 'The Shard' currently offers and we realise we are not just a step ahead of their offering but quite a few steps ahead. Will 'The Shard' read this and change things; we doubt it, not because they don't believe what we are saying or because they don't want to improve the customer experience but probably more to do with the budget already spent on the ‘Tell:scopes’ system!

In our research into how people are using AR for navigation and identifying places of interest we wrote a blog article...... ( regarding the installation at the Santander Banks HQ in Santander, Spain.

Again we found similarities with 'The Shard' offering, with the hundreds of thousands of digital images, the fixed access through pre-determined equipment, restricted in their range use and function.

Now compare this to what skignz offers and you can see that there is a gulf in the offerings! Why is this?

Were they engaged to provide these installations quite some time ago? Did they not consider people accessing it through their own devices or had skignz simply not been invented yet?

In the work we are exploring with other similar offerings across the globe, we aren't only looking at how to increase and improve the overall visitor experience but also the business model surrounding it, so that the owners of the 'visitor experience' can generate additional revenues that will allow them to 'reinvest' year on year in their attraction!

Keeping it relevant for every customer and not something that was maybe cool a year or two ago or that becomes 'so last season within a short time!'

For more information on how skignz could revolutionise the 'visitor experience' for your brand, please get in contact through our website

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