On June 23, National Geographic will begin welcoming visitors to the world's first outdoor planetarium in Quebec, Canada, where an augmented reality experience overlaid on the night sky will replace the projection systems of traditional facilities.
Visitors at Québec's ObservEtoiles will each receive an Aryzon AR viewer along with an Asus Zenphone 3 Zoom, which provides the digital content that is reflected and then projected into the user's field of view.
While seated in a 180-seat amphitheater, visitors will see outlines of constellations and names of stars and planets in augmented reality, with science writer and broadcaster Andrew Fazekas, aka "Night Sky Guy," narrating the experience. An astronomy laser will also guide guests through the experience.
Located at Au Diable Vert Station Montagne, ObservEtoiles is particularly well suited for this experience due to the darkness of its night sky, which is expected to be designated as a Canadian Dark Sky Preserve.
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At the conclusion of the event, participants will be able to take the Aryzon viewer with them to continue stargazing on their own. They will also receive a download code to install the app, which was developed by Escapist Games, the makers of the Star Chart app.
Aryzon is among a number of companies that have emerged over the past year offering highly affordable cardboard-style viewers that rely on smartphones to supply the visual source and processing power. However, lacking more intuitive user interfaces like hand gestures and relying on marker-based experiences results in a limited experience.
Nevertheless, a partnership with a recognized brand like National Geographic is a big vote of confidence for the bargain basement AR viewer segment. A Star Chart-style app that relies on GPS and a smartphone's built-in sensors for location and orientation somewhat overcomes the limited interface and tracking issues. And mobile AR toolkits like ARKit and ARCore may provide further opportunities for more similar immersive experiences.
Moreover, the Google Cardboard-style viewer segment acts as another gateway for novices into the world of augmented reality and helps to keep the public engaged with AR until dedicated AR glasses for consumers arrive.