Virtual tourism app Engage provides an innovative way to experience London.
New augmented reality app 'Engage' launching this fall to be funded in large part by Tourism London grant and private donation through the Elgin County Museum.
LONDON - July 27, 2020
A free app allowing Londoners to see the city as they’ve never seen it before is set to launch this fall. Engage guides users on scavenger hunt-like “adventures” through London neighbourhoods with stops along the way to experience “attractions” just by looking through their phone’s camera. Murals come to life, billboards move, and London’s history becomes a visual reality.
The app is being developed by EXAR Studios, a local company devoted to engaging communities and consumers through futuristic technologies including virtual reality, projection mapping, augmented reality, and more. The development is being funded in large part by a $100,000 grant from the Regional Recovery and Relief Fund through FedDev, gifted by Tourism London and over $200,000 in private funding through the Elgin County Museum and arranged by Andrew Gunn Consulting and young & free press.
With tourism at a low due to COVID-19, the app provides a safe way to spend time outdoors and learn about the city’s history while respecting social distancing guidelines.
“We strongly believe in the innovative technologies that EXAR Studios is working on and hope that we can create a platform that not only encourages tourism but showcases London’s heritage and culture in a unique and safe way,” says Natalie Wakabayashi, Director of Culture and Entertainment Tourism at Tourism London.
The Engage project is also being developed with local partners including Dundas Place, Museum London, the London Children’s Museum, TechAlliance, London Public Libraries, Downtown London BIA, Old East London BIA, Western Fair District, London Arts Council, The Urban League of London, London Heritage Council, and the City of London.
“COVID-19 has both brought us challenges and educated us as a collective. As it becomes safe to meet in person, we need a common thread that allows us to rebuild our economy, connect with other people and remember what our communities mean to us,” Shishir “S” Pande, EXAR Studios co-founder and Chief Strategy Officer. “We've built Engage to be that thread.”
Consultants Andrew Gunn and Maddie King arranged the contribution of over $200,000 from the private estate of Donna Bushell to expand Engage into Elgin County, including St. Thomas and Port Stanley. An additional $50,000 will be allocated from the Estate to the Elgin County Museum to establish an Augmented Reality Research Associate position. The individual hired for this role will work with regional museums and archives to generate historical and cultural information that will populate the app.
“We are really thrilled by the idea that we can bring together private and public sector partners across municipal lines to make a project like this happen because this is a wonderful thing for regional tourism,” says Andrew Gunn, President of Andrew Gunn Consulting. “We found the app was a way to bring cultural artifacts into the hands of visitors in a way that is accessible and interactive. Our team would like to express heartfelt thanks to all the partners involved, including the forward-thinking leaders in Elgin County who wanted to make this possible for the community. We look forward to using the app as we visit London, St. Thomas and Port Stanley, and sharing the experience with friends and visitors.”
“Our dream is to have Engage in every city that could take advantage of it. We are so excited to be able to explore how we can use Engage to bring communities together in exploring their neighbourhoods and enjoying this new digital layer through time,” Daniel Kharlas, EXAR Studios co-founder and Chief Operating Officer.
If you are interested in becoming a beta tester and getting early access to the app, sign up at engage.art