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Boosting Tourism through AR Glasses with KDDI

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Boosting Tourism through AR Glasses with KDDI

KDDI has launched “au Visual Guide”, a video commentary service that uses smart glasses. The wireless carrier has made the service available so the tourism and events industry can meet the spike in demand for skilled tour guides. au Visual Guide enables interactive, guided tours both indoors and outdoors through AR glasses.

(c) KDDI

As one of the top wireless carriers in Japan, KDDI promotes measures that solve social issues by bringing telecommunications closer to people’s daily lives. With the goals of supporting economic development and paving the way to new lifestyles, the carrier is actively commercializing augmented reality (AR) technology and emerging devices such as smart glasses.

Boosting the tourism and events industry

KDDI believes the time is right to apply extended reality (XR) to Japan’s tourism and events industry. Two particular trends are driving new opportunities. First, as Japan continues its economic recovery from the pandemic, the tourism and events industry has revived quickly. However, the bounceback has aggravated Japan’s already tight labor market, so one trend is the labor shortage. Second, visitors want to go beyond the traditional experience of guided tours to more personalization and interaction.

The trend is that travel agencies and local governments are looking for ways to accommodate that preference. However, they are not equipped to develop them on their own. To take advantage of those trends, KDDI provides an AR solution called au Visual Guide.

au Visual Guide

KDDI sees its au Visual Guide as the evolutionary step after the personal audio guide, a feature of tourism that many businesses have already embraced. Using smart glasses like the XREAL device and the Lenovo ThinkReality A3, au Visual Guide provides video commentary to tourists, including museum visitors and event attendees. It can deliver content using multilingual subtitles, animation, audio and sign language, in an AR viewing experience that uses virtual space.

The combination of AR and smart glasses capitalizes on the trends KDDI has identified. Not only does it address the labor shortage by using virtual staff to guide visitors, but it also lets tour operators offer their customers a novel, informative and personalized experience. And, as the headphones of personal audio guides minimize noise in a venue, smart glasses do not spoil the atmosphere or mood in the real world. One commercial example is KDDI Art Gallery, in which visitors watch and hear a virtual guide explaining the artwork they see.

Zentan Bus Company has developed another example that provides interactive, remote-guide services to travelers. Zentan uses au Visual Guide to connect their bus guides, who may work in the office or at home, to travelers, who may be anywhere in Japan. By remotely directing smart glasses-wearing visitors around points of interest in cities and villages, the company greatly increases the efficiency of the travel guide.

Using Snapdragon Spaces™ technology to increase adoption of AR

The main obstacle that KDDI sees to wider adoption of XR is the fragmentation in the market for hardware. Each manufacturer of XR devices promotes its own hardware platform and provides its own SDK. That diversity is a problem for service providers like KDDI, which has to base its bottom-line choices about engineering resources on each manufacturer’s strategy and product roadmap. As a result, it is difficult to scale up a viable business.

KDDI has adopted the Snapdragon Spaces XR Developer Platform because many manufacturers of AR and virtual reality (VR) hardware have embraced it. That means service providers like KDDI can develop applications without starting over for each new device. It also makes for a smoother development path to Snapdragon AR and Snapdragon XR processors. To simplify the user experience, KDDI has made use of the Dual Render Fusion feature, so that the AR glasses act as an extension of the mobile phone. The carrier finds it a good way to provide an immersive experience without overwhelming users.

AR experience highlights:

  • Supporting high-level goals. AR technology and emerging devices can play a role in economic development and the adoption of new lifestyles.
  • Easing a tight labor market. KDDI’s au Visual Guide provides recorded video commentary from virtual guides to on-site tourists and museum visitors.
  • Delivering more-personalized tour guide services. Through au Visual Guide, tourists go beyond traditional guides to enjoy an individualized, interactive experience.

“XR technology will change life for many people in the next ten years. We are still in the early stages, so there are lots of opportunities for first-mover advantage. We think that developers can take advantage of Snapdragon Spaces and its wide support among XR hardware manufacturers to make the most of those opportunities and succeed faster”

– Kozuki Katsuhiro, General Manager, Business Exploration & Development Division, KDDI