Carrickfergus Castle Immersive AR app

We teamed up with leading VFX studio Moonraker to undertake an experiment bringing pre-rendered 360 content into an app for Tourism Northern Ireland.

As part of a project with Tourism Northern Ireland, Zubr and Moonraker set out to pioneer a new approach for blending Hollywood quality pre-rendered visuals with the dynamism of augmented reality. With the goal of bringing heritage sites to life in photorealistic quality via an iOS app, we crafted awe-inspiring scenes for Carrickfergus Castle in County Antrim – allowing tourists to fire a cannon, reveal the medieval inhabitants of the Keep, and walk along a wooden pier which is no longer there. We will be working with Carrickfergus Castle to roll out new AR content in 2020, and are also looking to bring our innovative production approach to more heritage sites around the world.


Augmented reality to enhance tourism

Zubr teamed up with Moonraker VFX to create an experimental augmented reality app for Tourism Northern Ireland – part of a wider programme to explore the potential of immersive technologies to disrupt the tourism sector in Northern Ireland. 

A key goal was to build a solution which can help alleviate visitor traffic at traditional ‘Honeypot’ sites, such as Giant’s Causeway, by encouraging tourists to visit lesser-known attractions. Our augmented reality app is a prototype solution for luring visitors off the beaten path; incentivising trips to undervalued and overlooked sites by enhancing them with new, digital experiences.

Realtime interaction with pre-rendered quality

With Zubr’s focus on realtime 3D content and Moonraker being producers of pre-rendered CGI, we pioneered a hybrid technique which became the central pillar of our collaboration. This groundbreaking innovation combines the best of both worlds; bringing Hollywood-quality CGI to life by integrating it with dynamic, interactive augmented reality.

The inspiration for this experience came from the idea of turning the user into a ‘human video scrubber’ – playing through a sequence at your own pace, pausing and rewinding at your leisure. In effect, you are able to move through time and space with your own footsteps.

Navigate time with your own footsteps

When on site at Carrickfergus Castle, our app will guide you to three different points of interest where you can reveal a story from the past. Simply by lining up a calibration image, the app understands your position and invites you to start walking forwards…

Fire the cannon

Certainly the most high-octane of the three, witness the cannon firing before your very eyes as it attempts to bring down a period vessel in the distance.

Reveal the Keep

Just by pointing your device at the large, central structure of the castle, the bricks will crumble away and reveal a number of historical scenes inside – witness the habitants of the castle going about their daily business.

Explore the Outer Wall

From the outside of the castle grounds, you can walk along the path that was once a wooden pier – watching the timelapse transformation of the fortress throughout the centuries.

Movie quality CGI visuals

Moonraker are accustomed to making breathtakingly realistic 3D graphics for high-end television programmes and film productions. This involves using many resources which aren’t available to realtime 3D creators and game engines – for example, extremely high polygon counts, ultra high-res textures and specialist shading, lighting and particle rendering technologies. However, through the use of our hybrid user experience, we were able to maintain this high quality graphics output despite it running on a mobile device. The end result is a unique visual experience which blends seamlessly with the real world, creating the powerful illusion that the monuments around you are coming to life.

The future of user experience in tourism and heritage

This project, alongside similar heritage applications we have built such as Bristol Old Vic’s Window to the Past and Hidden Florence 3D is a perfect example of how the visitor experience can be enhanced with immersive technologies. Zubr is currently exploring a number of new opportunities for this type of deployment around the world, including ancient monument sites in Greece. We anticipate that this type of augmented reality will increase drastically in tourism and heritage over the next few years.

  • Content type: Augmented reality heritage app
  • Platform: iOS
  • Event Date: Summer 2019