K Telecom and the Cultural Heritage Administration together with Google, recently launched ‘Changdeok ARiring’, an AR experience for visitors of the UNESCO World Heritage Site, Changdeokgung Palace.

To create a fully interactive and truly immersive experience, SK Telecom installed 12 units of 5G base stations at the site and built the service in the 5G edge cloud. 

The project was aimed to increase the accessibility to cultural heritage, and now Changdeok Palace ARirang offers a unique route for wheelchair users or families with strollers. 

And with the Covid-19 pandemic, visitors from around the world are now unable to visit in person. To combat this, the Cultural Heritage Administration plans to launch Changdeok ARirang at Home, an experience which provides virtual tours of the palace through AR and VR content.  

Administrator of Cultural Heritage Administration, Chung Jae-suk, commented: 

“The spread of non-face-to-face interaction 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.”

For users to activate the AR experience, visitors will need to download the app and point their 5G Android smartphone cameras towards the palace, for those who don’t have a 5G smartphone can borrow one free of charge from the palace. Visitors will receive a surprise welcome from Haechi, a mythical creature believed to guard the palace. Haechi will act as a virtual guide around the palace and will escort visitors throughout the palace, offering detailed information in 12 different tourist spots within the palace as well as telling interesting historical stories in both the Korean or English language.  

The Cultural Heritage Administration wanted to make the AR experience as interactive and memorable as possible for visitors and so, Changdeok ARirang offers a diverse AR experience, allowing visitors to watch a royal court dance performance, play Korean traditional games in AR and capture AR photographs. 

With Changdeok ARirang, visitors are able to take a close look around restricted areas such as Huijeongdang and the palace’s secret garden, Huwon, through 360-degree AR. For instance, upon reaching the entrance of Secret Garden, a usually restricted area to the public, visitors will see an AR portal where they can be transported to the stunning Secret Garden.

Changdeok ARirang was created to deliver a true 5G-based AR experience to users by realising ultra-low latency data communication. To this end, SK Telecom installed a total of 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 Palace can experience approximately 60% faster speed when downloading content from the Changdeok ARirang app.

Vice President and Head of Brand Marketing Group of SK Telecom, Yea Hui-kang, stated:

“We are excited to introduce to the world an innovative 5G-powered augmented reality tour for Changdeokgung Palace, a UNESCO World Heritage Site… 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.”

To recreate Changdeokgung Palace in AR, SK Telecom worked closely with Google and Nexus Studios, an animation and interactive studio based in the UK, and Seerslab, an AR and VR corporation in Korea. The AR experience was built using Google Cloud, ARCore, Google’s AR platform, combined with other latest AR technologies including Lighting Estimation and Cloud Anchor.

With Google’s Cloud Anchor, which is used to create digital information overlaid on top of the real work to be experienced by multiple users at any time, virtual Haechi can provide visitors with seamless guidance and immersive AR experiences throughout the tour. Lighting Estimation has been applied to create a sense of reality in AR by expressing hologram content that appears naturally depending on the level of lighting at the site.

SK Telecom, the Cultural Heritage Administration and Google expects to increase people’s accessibility to cultural heritage by offering content created with the help of AR. 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 contents to enable visitors to virtually experience those areas.

And now with the Covid 19 pandemic, the companies are in the process of creating ‘Changdeok ARirang at Home,’ providing virtual AR tours for those around the world unable to attend the palace in August 2020. 

Country Director at Google Korea, John Lee, concluded:

“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.”
Aug 9, 2020
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