An Augmented Experience

As the day draws to a close one quiet evening in the heart of East Sussex, a group of nature nerds, sustainability supporters and technological trendsetters venture out on an alternative augmented reality nature trail within the beautiful grounds of the Ashdown Park Hotel & Country Club.

In collaboration with IEMA (Institute of Environmental Management & Assessment),  Bluedotaug organised the event in order to highlight how immersive technology can be used to encourage people to interact with nature, as well as to educate on both the wonders and fragility of the environment. The newly founded company also has plans to use immersive technology to create better visualisation of data, thereby improving understanding between businesses, policy makers and local citizens. After kicking off with an introduction to immersive technologies by Sean Burton, Chief Technology Officer at Bluedotaug, we are lead outside onto the grounds to begin the trail.

Photo by Sarah Clark.

The Ashdown Park Hotel & Country Club is the perfect setting for this event, with the grand, brooding silhouette of the mansion peering down on us as we go frolicking about in the grounds, searching for both real and virtual biodiversity. The initial mansion dates back to the early 19th century, and along with the estate, has since been owned and occupied by a variety of people. It now proudly owns its status as “one of the finest luxury hotels in Sussex”, with grounds occupying around 186 acres of Ashdown Forest, providing home to a vast range of flora and fauna.

Along the trail, Bluedotaug placed markers in various locations, programmed for an AR experience. By pointing a smartphone camera at each marker, different CGI animals appear as if really there. Accompanying the animals is a little fact and piece of information about their habitat or behaviour. This interactive piece of technology can be used to give visitors a more engaging experience and enjoyable way to learn about the biodiversity.

Photo by Sarah Clark – of me with an AR butterfly on my head!


The question might be posed about whether or not this technology is necessary: when people are out in nature, they can simply look for the real-life animals. Indeed, we did see a real-life heron, bats and fish on our tour, however other animals of interest such as badgers, deer and owls remained unseen, so we were pleased to have the ability to see AR versions of them.

© Emily D’Silva

An exciting example of another business putting AR to great use is Octagon Studios. Based in Indonesia, the company have produced a series of learning apps designed for educational use for primary school children. With a similar concept of using flashcards to trigger the appearance of the AR objects, they are able to teach children about the solar system, dinosaurs and the human anatomy in a fun and interactive way. As this is their main product, they have gone a step further, creating hyper-realistic, animated models. I had the pleasure of meeting Octagon Studios recently, who kindly gave me a few demo cards to test out. The screenshots below are from the Dinosaur 4D+ app.

This is me feeding a mini pentaceratops sat on my bookshelf!
Each app provides detailed, interactive information about each subject.

The entertainment value is clear, but there is such great potential for this kind of immersive technology and many businesses aware of the fact are beginning to use it, to enhance experiences, engage and educate.  Bluedotaug gives us a glimpse of this with their unique AR nature trail.  All in all, it was a fantastic event that introduced us to the biodiversity at Ashdown Park, sparked a lot of inspired conversation and left us wanting to discover more about how we could use AR in different businesses.

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