SK Telecom powers AR experience for visitors of Changdeokgung Palace

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SK Telecom, the Cultural Heritage Administration and Google have teamed up to deliver an immersive experience for visitors of Changdeokgung Palace in South Korea

Quick read

➨ Changdeok ARirang is an AR service powered by 5G technology that provides an immersive experience for visitors of a palace that has served as the primary residence of 13 kings
➨ It offers several AR experiences to visitors, allowing them to watch a royal court dance performance, play Korean traditional games in AR, and take AR pictures
➨ SK Telecom, the Cultural Heritage Administration and Google have also developed the service to improve accessibility at the site

The story

Visitors of Changdeokgung Palace in South Korea can, from this month, be guided around the historical site by a virtual recreation of Haechi, the mythical creature said to be guarding the palace, thanks to a partnership between SK Telecom, the country’s Cultural Heritage Administration and Google.

They have launched Changdeok ARirang, an AR service powered by 5G technology installed at the site that provides an immersive experience for visitors of a palace that has served as the primary residence of 13 kings, including the last monarch who dealt with state affairs in South Korea.

Changdeok ARirang offers several AR experiences to visitors, allowing them to watch a royal court dance performance, play Korean traditional games in AR, and take AR pictures. 

With Changdeok ARirang, visitors can also take a close look around restricted areas such as Huijeongdang and the palace’s secret garden, Huwon, through 360° AR.

5G Android smartphone users can download the Changdeok ARirang app from Google Play and One Store. The app supports both the Korean and English languages.

Those without a 5G smartphone can experience the service by borrowing a 5G smartphone for free at Changdeokgung Palace, until 31 December.

Changdeok ARirang is designed to deliver a true 5G-based AR experience through ultra-low latency data communication.

To achieve this, SK Telecom installed 12 units of 5G base stations within Changdeokgung Palace and built the service in the 5G edge cloud deployed at its Central Office in Seongsu-dong, Seoul. 

With 5G edge cloud, which enables data processing within the 5G infrastructure located closest to the end-user devices, visitors at Changdeokgung can experience approximately 60% faster speed when downloading contents from the Changdeok ARirang app, according to SK Telecom.

To recreate Changdeokgung Palace in AR, SK Telecom worked with Google and Nexus Studios, an animation and interactive studio based in the UK, and Seerslab, an AR and VR developer in South Korea.

They built the AR experience on Google Cloud and ARCore, and used other AR technologies, including lighting estimation and Cloud Anchor.

With Google’s Cloud Anchor, which is used to enable digital information overlaid on top of the real work to be experienced by multiple users at any time, Haechi can provide visitors with guidance throughout the tour.

Lighting estimation has been applied to create a sense of reality in AR by making hologram content appear naturally depending on the level of lighting at the site. 

SK Telecom, the Cultural Heritage Administration and Google have also developed the service to improve accessibility at the site.

For the Changdeok ARirang service, they created a wheelchair mode to support wheelchair users and visitors with strollers.

In the wheelchair mode, Haechi safely guides visitors through a special course that is accessible by wheelchairs. For areas that cannot be accessed by wheelchairs, the service offers AR content to enable visitors to virtually experience the site.

They also plan to launch Changdeok ARirang at Home, which provides a virtual tour of Changdeokgung for those who cannot physically visit the palace, this month.

By downloading the Changdeok ARirang at Home app from Google Play, anyone across the world can take a tour of the palace.

The service, which is currently available in English and Korean, is expected to deliver a unique cultural experience to people at a time when traveling is restricted due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

John Lee, country director at Google Korea, said: “I am very pleased to launch such a meaningful and exemplary AR experience powered by Google’s advanced AR and cloud technologies in Korea, the world leading 5G market.”

“It is particularly meaningful in that we can offer virtual experiences of the cultural heritage of Korea for people around the world amid Covid-19 situations.”

Chung Jae-suk, administrator of Cultural Heritage Administration, continued: “The spread of non-face-to-face interaction (‘untact’) culture due to the Covid-19 outbreak is transforming how we experience arts and culture.”

“I hope that Changdeok ARirang will serve as a valuable opportunity for people around the world to enjoy Korea’s beautiful cultural heritage.”

“We are excited to introduce to the world an innovative 5G-powered augmented reality tour for Changdeokgung Palace, a UNESCO World Heritage Site,” said Yea Hui-kang, vice president and head of the brand marketing group of SK Telecom.

“We will continue to move forward with our creative ideas to make valuable contributions to the society through the use of our cutting-edge information and communication technologies.”

Historical sites such as Changdeokgung in South Korea, as well as landmarks and popular tourist attractions, should consider using immersive technology to attract new visitors at a time when footfalls are down and travelling is restricted.

As Stefan Berens, head of the media and entertainment business division at Panasonic Canada, argued in the new issue of VRWorldTech Magazine, they will need to react in such an innovative way if they are going to overcome the challenges of Covid-19.

“More than ever before, businesses and landmarks need to be innovative to manage the challenges presented by Covid-19. As we begin to adapt to a post-pandemic reality and the next normal, we will continue to see immersive technology leveraged to stay relevant, draw in audiences and diversify revenue streams.”

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Main image: Changdeok ARirang