A new challenge launched by Tourism NI will offer up to £70,000 for technology and tourism partnerships to develop ways to use augmented reality (AR) to support local tourism.

The competition, which is part of the Small Business Research Initiative (SBRI), will also help to identify and test new supporting operational and commercial models for AR in tourism.

Dave Vincent, Tourism Northern Ireland Chief Digital Officer, said, “We are keen to find new innovative ways to encourage visitors to explore more, do more and spend more during their visit to Northern Ireland outside of the traditional tourism hotspots. This SBRI competition provides a great opportunity for us to work with highly innovative companies to explore how augmented reality can enrich our visitor experience.”

Welcoming the competition, Tom Gray, Head of Digital Catapult NI said, “Immersive technologies, including augmented reality, are an extremely promising opportunity for new business models and applications. This competition will help provide practical demonstrators of how AR can add value in existing sectors such as tourism and also showcase creative and digital talent.”

AR technology allows digital enhancements to be layered over real life experiences. This could make booking a hotel, accessing information during a trip, navigating around a destination, translating information or finding food and entertainment much easier. And it can all be done simply through an app on mobile devices.

AR technology can also change how visitors can find and experience local attractions, culture and entertainment. Using apps powered by AR, visitors could not only research and navigate to the places they wish to visit, but experience them in a much more meaningful way, with digital overlays containing interactive information about the culture or history of the site.

Tourism NI, working with the Department for Communities, Digital Catapult NI and Matrix, wants to encourage tourism focussed innovation in AR.  They hope to promote and test in market the deployment of AR technology in tourism contexts such as:

  • Enriching the tourist experience for visitors whose first language is not English, such as multilingual signposting alongside tailored content
  • Immersive story telling
  • Offering a richer visitor experience at remote or unmanned tourist and historic heritage sites
  • Identifying and testing supporting operational and commercial models

Tourism NI is looking for solutions that will encourage visitors to find and encounter new experiences while encouraging them to extend the length of their visits and, importantly, spend more while they are here.

The Challenge

Tourism NI is looking for proposals from technology and tourism stakeholders with innovative digital ideas using AR technologies.  The solutions should offer potential appeal to the wider tourism marketplace and also consider the underlying operational and commercial models.

The Themes

Tourism NI is looking for innovative solutions to address one or both of our contest challenge themes.

Theme 1:  Multi-Lingual Way Finding

A creative solution to enhance the visitor experience by helping people of all abilities and language requirements, find their way around and between tourist attractions.

Solutions should consider:

  • Delivery of efficient, effective and stress free wayfinding
  • Multilingual provision
  • How to encourage visitors to explore the environment around a tourist attraction, notifying them of items of interest, events or other tourist amenities in the area.
  • How to adapt to the location and environment of the user and be capable of transitioning between outdoor and indoor spaces
  • Allowing the user to navigate the environment virtually

Theme 2: Unmanned and Heritage Tourist Locations

A digital solution that will deliver an enhanced visitor experience while allowing visitors to be tracked at historic sites in a low-cost, robust and reliable way that delivers information in a timely manner, regardless of location, connectivity and power conditions.

Solutions should consider:

  • An immersive experience that recreates life in the original site
  • Pointing users to other nearby attractions
  • A method of tracking visitor footfall
  • Multilingual provision

Who can apply?

To apply you must:

  • propose a solution which responds to one or both of the challenges
  • propose a solution that is creatively, technically or commercially innovative
  • propose a solution that has wider tourism marketplace potential beyond the challenge consortium
  • propose a solution that considers the supporting operating and commercial models

You don’t need to have an existing app or service or be currently active in the Immersive industry.

You do need to have a specific product, platform or service in mind, even if it is only at idea stage.

How will the challenge work??

This contest is a two stage process.

Stage 1

Stage one involves the completion of an application form and making a short innovative presentation of your idea. Tourism NI will then select up to 6 solutions to go through to the next stage.

Stage 2

Stage two involves a live pitch and Q&A to an expert assessment panel on 18th December 2017 who will make the final decision on which solutions to fund. Applicants can apply from 26th October 2017. There is a briefing event for potential applicants to find out more information, on 3rd November 2017 at 10.30 in the Stormont Hotel, Belfast.

To learn more about the contest and to get the application form, go to www.tourismni.com/sbri

Key dates:

Contest Opens 26 October 2017
Briefing event 3 November 2017
Submission deadline 7 December 2017
Shortlisted companies notified 11 December 2017
Pitch/ winners selected 11 December 2017
Development and trial window December 2017 to March 2018
Panel presentation 6 April 2018 (provisional date)


If you have any questions, need help applying or are looking for partners to work on your project with, contact the Tourism NI digital team on arcompetition@tourismni.com

Invitation to apply – download

Additional Information