Pint of Science Rouen – Tourism and its relationship with augmented reality #Pint21!

In 2012, Dr Michael Motskin and Dr Praveen Paul, two research scientists at Imperial College of London, had the idea of bringing science to the public, which led to the birth of the not-for-profit Pint of Science festival the following year. Nowadays the event is held every year in May in pubs in nearly 400 cities around the world.

On 18 May 2021, two VISTA partners took part in the event, held online (CESI and NEOMA). One hour of science and fun around 3 topics:Presentation of the job of researcher” (LINEACT laboratory – CESI Rouen), “Urban agriculture and food of the future” (UniLaSalle et l’ESIGELEC) and “Tourism and its relationship with augmented reality” (NEOMA Business School).

 We focused here on the third topic, which echoes the work of the VISTA project.

Tourism and its relationship with augmented reality

The research question at the origin of this project, explained Gaël Bonnin, Director of Research and Professor of Marketing at NEOMA Business School, was “whether the use of AR is an opportunity for tourist and cultural sites”.
In other words, “is it interesting for visitors and will it allow museums and tourist sites to be more attractive and attract more visitors? And what content should be given to these AR tools?”

Two studies were carried out using the “Narrative theory” approach, or the way in which a story is constructed, in response to this common objective of museums and tourist sites “to tell a story, to bring it to the visitors and make them live it”.
Based on the principle that humans have two ways of “apprehending the world”, with an intellectual understanding (“paradigmatic” mode of knowledge), or from the stories that are told to them (“narrative” mode of knowledge), the NEOMA team focused on “narrative engagement“, i.e. “the capacity of someone to enter into a story”, which depends on 4 criteria:
– “Do I understand the story?
– Do I pay attention to what is being told? Do I stay engaged in the story?
– Do I immerse myself in the story? […]
– Do I feel emotionally moved by it? ”

If, in theory, AR or VR are assets in that they allow “absent elements to be brought to life”, in reality does it really work like that for curators?
To answer this question, Gaël Bonnin and his team at NEOMA conducted several studie.

A first study (452 responses) which compared 4 French sites with and without AR tools. The results showed that overall the intention to use the proposed tools was quite high.3 main responses:
. Unsurprisingly, it showed that “people who already liked the technologies at the beginning had a higher intention to adopt AR tools”.
. A second point, which “really validates the central hypothesis”, is that the more the respondent feels that the AR tool or the AR app will immerse them in the story or engage them emotionally, the more they will intend to adopt and use it.
. Another finding is that the relationship to the AR tablet varies according to the personality of the visitor. This study found that “multi-taskers”, who love to do many things at once, were inclined to use the device, while “mono-taskers”, who prefer to focus their attention on one thing, were “more reluctant to use it, especially when the application gave a very strong spatial presence, with a lot of content elements in relation to the site they were in”.

The conclusion of this study is that there is indeed an intention to adopt AR tools, in that they “bring up past events, immerse people in history’ and they also have a “positive effect on intention to visit and word of mouth”.

However, these results have limitations:
. “It was a very simplified presentation (a slide show)”,
. It did not answer an important question for some museums, i. e. whether it is ” better to invest in more on-site animations or in the development of virtual reality tools “.
.  The third limitation of this study is that the research “focused on very informative AR tools” but “did not really tell a story”.

This led to another study being set up.

The second study (2000 respondents) was carried out using the Château de Fougères site (VISTA’s partner) as a point of comparison. Eight different videos were presented showing the site with or without animations, with or without informative AR tools and with or without narrative AR tools.

. “The results partially confirm those of the first study, […] with a fairly high intention to use. ”
. It also indicates that adding highly narrative AR (battle scene animation) to informative AR further increases the intention to use these tools. The main reasons given by respondents are that these storytelling and informational AR experiences “are seen as both more fun and more useful” and “allows them to learn more.”
. In terms of attractiveness the results were quite surprising and will be addressed in a future study: “the presence of information-only AR […] will, in this second case, degrades narrative immersion (i.e. the ability to get into the story) and the emotions it provided” but also “degrades the intention to visit”.
. “The other interesting result is that animation (on site) and narrative AR […] have a synergistic effect” which will increase “narrative immersion and emotional engagement”.

In conclusion, this “confirms the results of the first study BUT with a “caveat”, developing purely informative AR tools, in this second study, is not enough, especially when the site is itself highly immersive. “It is therefore “important for museums when deciding to use AR tools to ensure that it really promotes narrative immersion.”



Some of the questions asked by Pint of Science participants
(G. Bonnin’s non verbatim answers):

* Is it possible to access AR remotely? This could democratise and interest younger people.
  GB: If the principle of AR is really to be on the spot and to bring with the device a source of additional information on an element of the site, several initiatives around virtual reality are underway to meet this objective of making it more accessible and interesting to a new audience.

* Were there any returns where VR overshadowed the visit/monument and the “historical” atmosphere of the place?
  GB: Although this study in relation to VR has not been carried out, “when you see the impact that animations have on the visitor experience, it is very likely to be something that visitors are not prepared to let go of”, so the risk here could be for the site to invest in VR glasses at a loss.

*  Would you consider doing a study with glasses as an AR tool instead of tablets?
  GB: Although AR glasses (such as Google Glass) have a huge advantage in terms of practicality, as they are less cumbersome than the tablet (“can go some way towards the ergonomics of the visit”), there are currently very few on the market.

* Will tablets replace guides? Are the 2 complementary, the virtual and the “human” mediation of the guide?
  GB : “The 2 are complementary. […] The tablet can make interactions with the guide even more experiential and facilitate his work.


Find the replay of the event and all the presentations on the Pint of Science YouTube channel: (Automatic subtitles available for English speakers).