Early January Auckland Virtual Tours, an augmented reality app available on Apple App Store and Google Play Store, was released by app developer M Theory, who had worked with Någti Whåtua Øråkei in the hopes of creating a simple, sustainable, yet informative medium to view the amazing landscape of Bastion Point while absorbing the area’s historical context.
Bastion Point receives approximately 500,000 annual visitors, being comprised of both regular walkers of the path from the nearby community and one-time visitors, largely coming by busses shuttling tourists from docked cruise ships. Up to 9 busloads of people, touring in groups of up to 40, are able to visit the ninety minute, tour-guide-mandatory, “Home Fires” walking tour, which cost fifty dollars, or wander on, or off, the walking path through the luscious gardens of the Savage Memorial, take in the view of surrounding Islands and the Auckland Harbor, and scour the trees for the newly reintroduced birds of Bastion Point. The app serves as a tour guide of sorts of this section, making the surrounding scenery more meaningful and historical.
After purchasing the app and calibrating the device, a small compass at the bottom of the screen leads the user to several different points on the walking path. Each stop is unique, ranging from lessons on the geography of surrounding islands to three dimensional renderings of boats and ceremonial houses used by the original iwi islanders. Along with each of these comes a picture as well as information about one of the birds local to Bastion Point and historical photographs of each location compared to how the area looks to date. Total time of the virtual tour is thirty minutes.
The aim of the AR (augmented reality) experience is to give visitors and locals alike an easy, worthwhile time on the shorter tour, while increasing revenue for the iwi in order to properly maintain and offer new opportunity on the land. Sam Ramlu, the developer at M Theory “love[s] to provide something that enhances tourism and adds value to the place without adding anything physical.” The two parties had a mutual come together in June of last year. Sam says that Jamie Cook, Business Development Manager, “wanted an app where we could bring the stories to life.” Six months later after development and constructive feedback, both parties were satisfied for the app’s release in the new year. While having done other augmented reality work, Sam says this is “unique in its own way.” Sam is “just starting to see the numbers coming in.” Business Development Partner Rebecca Sullivan, who has been working with marketing the new app as well as the new coffee and information kiosk, hasn’t seen “a boost in tours,” but has certainly noticed “new users every day,” which “includes locals.” The longer tour is not yet offered on the app, but Ngati Whatua Orakei “has the option to expand” and is “keeping it open” for now.