How are creativity and innovation revolutionising human experiences in physical space?

Thanks to innovation, creativity and technology, we have seen a major shift in how we see and experience our surrounding environment.

Thanks to innovation, creativity and technology, we have seen a major shift in how we see and experience our surrounding environment. The term “place“ refers to a geographical location but also to all those environments designed for human interactivity, connectivity and engagement. Before we jump into how to enhance the experience in a place, let’s clarify the concept of Spatial Awareness.

Spatial Awareness is the way people perceive the place they are located in according to the physical arrangements, placement of objects and relative distances. Perception of space depends on elements we can interact with. Scale, placement and orientation of objects influence one's awareness of the space and possibilities of interacting with it. Moving in space and navigating in-between spaces helps us become more aware of our surroundings. The atmosphere and emotions evoked by a particular space also help to be more spatially aware. However, spatial awareness can also be manipulated by a multi-sensory perception of space. Having said that, the question that remains is: how does space design impact human experiences?

In physical reality, emerging concepts in architecture and urban design are re-contextualising environments. Places are no longer built for a sole and pre-defined purpose but for interaction and engagement. From the human experiences point of view, open and connected spaces offer increased chances to discover and explore and are thus more perceived as playful. In playful spaces, architecture and elements designed within structures become tools that facilitate personal exploration. As the space invites people to explore, it can be interpreted by who and in what context experiences it.

urbanana, a project in a banana-shaped area in Germany, joined us during X. Festival 2021. They presented us with their creative definition of atmospheric design in a panel with different stakeholders and key players in the project. For urbanana, atmospheric design means bringing creative, artistic, digital and tourism industries together with a shared aim to enhance experience offerings in destinations. urbanana’s approach to atmospheric design transforms object-focused experiences into sustainable designs, focusing on both people and places. urbanana leverages opportunities that creative thinking brings to destinations to attract visitors and encourage participation. Their projects touch on many aspects of urban discovery, from urban pop culture and music to cuisine and events. You can watch urbanana’s panel discussion about atmospheric designs here.

Going beyond physical characteristics of space: layered reality experiences

Beyond the place's physical characteristics, digital and creative innovations can significantly alternate how people perceive and experience the surroundings. There are endless ways to transform existing spaces with immersive technologies, soundscapes and visualisations. Depending on the use and extent of digital technologies, a physical place can emerge into an immersive environment with Augmented Reality (AR) and Mixed Reality (MR) technologies or regenerated in Virtual Reality (VR). But what if the space we experience every day offers more?

In layered reality experiences, immersive tech, projections, volumetric holograms and multi-sensory effects can transform a place. While people are in a 3D space, additional channels of content could enhance their experience. A combination of multi-sensory effects supports the storytelling and immersing the audience in the experience more profoundly. Both cultural and entertainment sectors are increasingly embracing layered reality experiences to offer novel and engaging experiences.

In 2021, The Victorian & Albert Museum opened the ‘Alice: Curiouser and Curiouser’, an immersive experience modality of Alice in Wonderland. However, this time, the museum incorporated immersive technology to support visitor journeys of exploring the wonderland.

Think about how a place can evolve from one thing into another and how this evolution differently impacts visitors' negotiation of the place? In a conventional exhibition display, interpretations are object-centric. Often audio-visual content is incorporated to support object displays. Yet, visitors can be much more engaged if they are allowed interaction and active engagement with the space they are visiting.

How does light contribute to resurfacing places?

On the urban scale, light offers many opportunities to resurface landscapes. Projection mappings are creative examples of mediating the space. Immersive outdoor experiences with grand light projections such as 'La fête des lumières' in Lyon, France, or the 'Durham Lumiere Festival', UK, resurface iconic landmarks with creativity and often illusionary imageries. From the visitors' point of view, structures participating in light projections are no longer seen as they usually are. Buildings and the governing landscapes become canvases for creative animations. For the duration of events, they represent something else as a result of magical illuminations. Urban facades and buildings have their own historical meanings and context, but with digital and immersive technologies, they can have a different cognitive effect on people's minds. With projection mappings, unused spaces can be transformed into interesting venues.

How does light contribute to resurfacing places?

On the urban scale, light offers many opportunities to resurface landscapes. Projection mappings are creative examples of mediating the space. Immersive outdoor experiences with grand light projections such as 'La fête des lumières' in Lyon, France, or the 'Durham Lumiere Festival', UK, resurface iconic landmarks with creativity and often illusionary imageries. From the visitors' point of view, structures participating in light projections are no longer seen as they usually are. Buildings and the governing landscapes become canvases for creative animations. For the duration of events, they represent something else as a result of magical illuminations. Urban facades and buildings have their own historical meanings and context, but with digital and immersive technologies, they can have a different cognitive effect on people's minds. With projection mappings, unused spaces can be transformed into interesting venues.

“Floating through the air, particles of light disturb the peace of the Place des Célestins. Their movement seems to perform a strange, hypnotic ballet. As an allegory of the digital data sent every day through our communication networks, these fragments of virtual light come together to form a cloud in the middle of the square. This metallic nebula – a custodian of our memories – gets brighter and brighter until it reaches saturation point and explodes, irradiating the surrounding architecture. The shimmering particles spread out, creating amazing pictures on the theatre, trees and facades of the square, revealing their beauty.”

How can immersive technologies support the relationship between people and places?

Immersion and interaction quality are two key characteristics of immersive technologies and are shared between Augmented Reality (AR), Mixed Reality (MR) and Virtual Reality (VR), although on different extents. Immersive technologies manipulate the human perception of the space and thus immerse the audience -or the user depending on the context- into alternative versions of reality. In AR, the physical world remains at the centre of attention. However, it is supported by augmented auditory and visual content, which can be channelled through personal devices and wearables. In AR, human opportunities to interact with space are expanded but are also limited to functions defined on personal devices. MR, compared to AR, further expands digital integrations. In MR environments, digital technology does not only support physical reality spaces. It is integrated into space in a way that alters representation, function and often the purpose of space.

One recent innovation in AR and MR is bringing objects to life, which means static objects in our surroundings become responsive in a way that people can interact with them that is not possible in the physical world. Snapchat has embraced AR and taken social media to the next level in many directions. For example, Snapchat and Jeff Koons partnership launched in 2017 allowed AR interactive experience with sculptures globally. New York’s Central Park, Millineum Park in Chicago, as well as renowned destinations globally, now exhibit digital versions of Jeff Koons sculptures. Snapchat has also introduced landmarks AR features, which brings famous landmarks globally into life with animations and expressions. Many prominent destinations, from Buckingham Palace, UK, to the Taj Mahal in India, now have a designated filter on Snapchat.

Considering the popularity of social media apps such as Snapchat among Gen Zs and the Millennials, tourism and travel destinations can benefit a lot from partnering with digital creators and developers. Introducing features such as AR increases attracting visitors and encourages return visits to experience destinations differently. The interactive nature of immersive technologies opens up many pathways for realistic, abstract and indeed gamified experiences of places. In all modalities, users’ real-time interaction with space is key.

The AR Biennale by NWR-Forum (affiliated with urbanana) in 2021 is another example of bringing AR to an urban scale. The AR Biennale featured AR artwork of a group of artists across Düsseldorf, Essen and Cologne. An app was designed for the Biennale, where a free version featured a selection of artworks and the paid version gave full access to the artworks. Markers were installed at particular geo-locations around the cities for people to scan and experience artworks in AR.

Place/destination transformation initiatives can benefit from simple integrations of digital media. Gamified modalities of places take the user on an adventure of alternative experiences of the place. AR and MR encourage user curiosity about space. In tourism and travel targeted, (un)structured gamification gives destinations a chance to put a different image out for digital enthusiasts. It allows engaging visitors with narratives and what the destination stands for through interactive experiences. In 2018, UNWTO announced its partnership with Niantic, working towards enhancing tourism for UN's 2030 Agenda for sustainable development. The partnership aims to increase awareness around responsible tourism and gives players the opportunity to discover the history of neighbourhoods through gamification.

X Design Week is coming back with lots of #IRL events…

As a digital company at heart, we highly value the contribution of innovative and creative digital technologies to transforming tourism and travel. We are excited to announce that in June 2022, we are hosting X. Design Week in Cologne, Germany. We are looking forward to bringing the tourism industry and immersive technologies together in a week-long series of events and workshops to ideate how DMOs can embark on the immersive tech journey. We will be announcing more exciting news about X. Design Week soon, so stay tuned!

Thanks to innovation, creativity and technology, we have seen a major shift in how we see and experience our surrounding environment. The term “place“ refers to a geographical location but also to all those environments designed for human interactivity, connectivity and engagement. Before we jump into how to enhance the experience in a place, let’s clarify the concept of Spatial Awareness.

Spatial Awareness is the way people perceive the place they are located in according to the physical arrangements, placement of objects and relative distances. Perception of space depends on elements we can interact with. Scale, placement and orientation of objects influence one's awareness of the space and possibilities of interacting with it. Moving in space and navigating in-between spaces helps us become more aware of our surroundings. The atmosphere and emotions evoked by a particular space also help to be more spatially aware. However, spatial awareness can also be manipulated by a multi-sensory perception of space. Having said that, the question that remains is: how does space design impact human experiences?

In physical reality, emerging concepts in architecture and urban design are re-contextualising environments. Places are no longer built for a sole and pre-defined purpose but for interaction and engagement. From the human experiences point of view, open and connected spaces offer increased chances to discover and explore and are thus more perceived as playful. In playful spaces, architecture and elements designed within structures become tools that facilitate personal exploration. As the space invites people to explore, it can be interpreted by who and in what context experiences it.

urbanana, a project in a banana-shaped area in Germany, joined us during X. Festival 2021. They presented us with their creative definition of atmospheric design in a panel with different stakeholders and key players in the project. For urbanana, atmospheric design means bringing creative, artistic, digital and tourism industries together with a shared aim to enhance experience offerings in destinations. urbanana’s approach to atmospheric design transforms object-focused experiences into sustainable designs, focusing on both people and places. urbanana leverages opportunities that creative thinking brings to destinations to attract visitors and encourage participation. Their projects touch on many aspects of urban discovery, from urban pop culture and music to cuisine and events. You can watch urbanana’s panel discussion about atmospheric designs here.

Going beyond physical characteristics of space: layered reality experiences

Beyond the place's physical characteristics, digital and creative innovations can significantly alternate how people perceive and experience the surroundings. There are endless ways to transform existing spaces with immersive technologies, soundscapes and visualisations. Depending on the use and extent of digital technologies, a physical place can emerge into an immersive environment with Augmented Reality (AR) and Mixed Reality (MR) technologies or regenerated in Virtual Reality (VR). But what if the space we experience every day offers more?

In layered reality experiences, immersive tech, projections, volumetric holograms and multi-sensory effects can transform a place. While people are in a 3D space, additional channels of content could enhance their experience. A combination of multi-sensory effects supports the storytelling and immersing the audience in the experience more profoundly. Both cultural and entertainment sectors are increasingly embracing layered reality experiences to offer novel and engaging experiences.

In 2021, The Victorian & Albert Museum opened the ‘Alice: Curiouser and Curiouser’, an immersive experience modality of Alice in Wonderland. However, this time, the museum incorporated immersive technology to support visitor journeys of exploring the wonderland.

Think about how a place can evolve from one thing into another and how this evolution differently impacts visitors' negotiation of the place? In a conventional exhibition display, interpretations are object-centric. Often audio-visual content is incorporated to support object displays. Yet, visitors can be much more engaged if they are allowed interaction and active engagement with the space they are visiting.

How does light contribute to resurfacing places?

On the urban scale, light offers many opportunities to resurface landscapes. Projection mappings are creative examples of mediating the space. Immersive outdoor experiences with grand light projections such as 'La fête des lumières' in Lyon, France, or the 'Durham Lumiere Festival', UK, resurface iconic landmarks with creativity and often illusionary imageries. From the visitors' point of view, structures participating in light projections are no longer seen as they usually are. Buildings and the governing landscapes become canvases for creative animations. For the duration of events, they represent something else as a result of magical illuminations. Urban facades and buildings have their own historical meanings and context, but with digital and immersive technologies, they can have a different cognitive effect on people's minds. With projection mappings, unused spaces can be transformed into interesting venues.

How does light contribute to resurfacing places?

On the urban scale, light offers many opportunities to resurface landscapes. Projection mappings are creative examples of mediating the space. Immersive outdoor experiences with grand light projections such as 'La fête des lumières' in Lyon, France, or the 'Durham Lumiere Festival', UK, resurface iconic landmarks with creativity and often illusionary imageries. From the visitors' point of view, structures participating in light projections are no longer seen as they usually are. Buildings and the governing landscapes become canvases for creative animations. For the duration of events, they represent something else as a result of magical illuminations. Urban facades and buildings have their own historical meanings and context, but with digital and immersive technologies, they can have a different cognitive effect on people's minds. With projection mappings, unused spaces can be transformed into interesting venues.

“Floating through the air, particles of light disturb the peace of the Place des Célestins. Their movement seems to perform a strange, hypnotic ballet. As an allegory of the digital data sent every day through our communication networks, these fragments of virtual light come together to form a cloud in the middle of the square. This metallic nebula – a custodian of our memories – gets brighter and brighter until it reaches saturation point and explodes, irradiating the surrounding architecture. The shimmering particles spread out, creating amazing pictures on the theatre, trees and facades of the square, revealing their beauty.”

How can immersive technologies support the relationship between people and places?

Immersion and interaction quality are two key characteristics of immersive technologies and are shared between Augmented Reality (AR), Mixed Reality (MR) and Virtual Reality (VR), although on different extents. Immersive technologies manipulate the human perception of the space and thus immerse the audience -or the user depending on the context- into alternative versions of reality. In AR, the physical world remains at the centre of attention. However, it is supported by augmented auditory and visual content, which can be channelled through personal devices and wearables. In AR, human opportunities to interact with space are expanded but are also limited to functions defined on personal devices. MR, compared to AR, further expands digital integrations. In MR environments, digital technology does not only support physical reality spaces. It is integrated into space in a way that alters representation, function and often the purpose of space.

One recent innovation in AR and MR is bringing objects to life, which means static objects in our surroundings become responsive in a way that people can interact with them that is not possible in the physical world. Snapchat has embraced AR and taken social media to the next level in many directions. For example, Snapchat and Jeff Koons partnership launched in 2017 allowed AR interactive experience with sculptures globally. New York’s Central Park, Millineum Park in Chicago, as well as renowned destinations globally, now exhibit digital versions of Jeff Koons sculptures. Snapchat has also introduced landmarks AR features, which brings famous landmarks globally into life with animations and expressions. Many prominent destinations, from Buckingham Palace, UK, to the Taj Mahal in India, now have a designated filter on Snapchat.

Considering the popularity of social media apps such as Snapchat among Gen Zs and the Millennials, tourism and travel destinations can benefit a lot from partnering with digital creators and developers. Introducing features such as AR increases attracting visitors and encourages return visits to experience destinations differently. The interactive nature of immersive technologies opens up many pathways for realistic, abstract and indeed gamified experiences of places. In all modalities, users’ real-time interaction with space is key.

The AR Biennale by NWR-Forum (affiliated with urbanana) in 2021 is another example of bringing AR to an urban scale. The AR Biennale featured AR artwork of a group of artists across Düsseldorf, Essen and Cologne. An app was designed for the Biennale, where a free version featured a selection of artworks and the paid version gave full access to the artworks. Markers were installed at particular geo-locations around the cities for people to scan and experience artworks in AR.

Place/destination transformation initiatives can benefit from simple integrations of digital media. Gamified modalities of places take the user on an adventure of alternative experiences of the place. AR and MR encourage user curiosity about space. In tourism and travel targeted, (un)structured gamification gives destinations a chance to put a different image out for digital enthusiasts. It allows engaging visitors with narratives and what the destination stands for through interactive experiences. In 2018, UNWTO announced its partnership with Niantic, working towards enhancing tourism for UN's 2030 Agenda for sustainable development. The partnership aims to increase awareness around responsible tourism and gives players the opportunity to discover the history of neighbourhoods through gamification.

X Design Week is coming back with lots of #IRL events…

As a digital company at heart, we highly value the contribution of innovative and creative digital technologies to transforming tourism and travel. We are excited to announce that in June 2022, we are hosting X. Design Week in Cologne, Germany. We are looking forward to bringing the tourism industry and immersive technologies together in a week-long series of events and workshops to ideate how DMOs can embark on the immersive tech journey. We will be announcing more exciting news about X. Design Week soon, so stay tuned!

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