Case Study: Lonely Planet's augmented reality guides

Case Study: Lonely Planet's augmented reality guides

Kelly Brough, Global Director of Digital at Lonely Planet talks us through their augmented reality Compass Guides: Lonely Planet has a long history of helping travellers through new technology. Right from the start of the web, our Thorn Tree community offered travellers a place to meet and swap information, and you’ll still find more detailed advice on pretty much anywhere in the world quicker here than anywhere else. From the web to phones to tablets, our starting point is always the same: how does what we’re doing make someone’s trip better?  Augmented reality has the potential to enhance how a destination is seen and experienced, so it was natural we’d want to move into this area.

So in August, Lonely Planet became the first travel company in the world to create augmented reality products for travellers with Android handsets. We launched a series of 25 Compass Guides for popular European, US and Asian cities.

The application pinpoints your exact location so that when you find yourself in a new city and want to know what there is to see and do around you, just look through the camera and a wealth of Lonely Planet information on the best destinations, accommodation, sites, bars and restaurants appear stuck like post-it notes to points of interest around you.  

Key features of the Compass Guides include GPS enabled maps and location based information for hundreds of points of interest for every city, while the phone’s built in compass allows users to see their current location and how far or near they are to destinations and sites.  We realise it’s important that the guides also enable travellers to use all content offline (with the exception of the maps) meaning no roaming fees.

We worked with Austrian developer Mobilizy, who also developed the augmented reality features for the Wikitude app to make points of interest in city guides compatible with AR technology. Partnerships are a natural way to speed up the pace of development, and Mobilizy were a good fit for Lonely Planet in this latest stage of our mobile development.

Lonely Planet’s product development is primarily driven by listening to our travellers and providing them with what they need to make their journeys the best they can be.  With mobile products there is a need to anticipate these needs a little more, and put ourselves in their shoes. So now these applications are in the market our next task is to listen to what we’re hearing back, observe patterns of usage and build out our plans accordingly. It is, however, too early to share learnings other than to say that sales are in line with expectations.

What’s next? As I noted above, development of mobile products will be, like everything we do, driven by listening, learning and moving fast to give travellers what they want. One request: if you bump into someone on the street who’s holding their phone in front of them and panning around, be gentle. They’re probably using our Compass Guides.