Let’s deep dive into the story behind our latest project, Brum AR which has been keeping our Immersive Studio very busy! As a team, we’re excited to be creating something that celebrates the vibrant, cultural offering of our city.

The Technology

Here at BOM, we’ve been playing with some of the latest augmented reality tools just released from Google which includes GeoSpatial Creator, powered by ARcore and the Google Maps platform. Its functionality enables developers to make use of a range of tools in the Google toolkit, including Google Street View. GeoSpatial Creator allows developers to add unique content and build a world-anchored, cross-platform experience. Since it’s powered by the Google Maps platform, Geospatial Creator can be experienced in the physical world through real-time localisation and real-world augmentation. For instance, it uses device sensors and GPS to detect the user’s environment and the geospatial API allows location-based Augmented Reality (AR) experiences and gaming.

We’ve been interested in this technology since it was released and have been exploring how it could be used in immersive projects. We’ve seen the possibilities from the Singapore Tourism Board and Stirling Council, both of which have used the technology to create immersive AR app experiences. 

Showcasing Birmingham’s rich heritage and cultural offer

This is when we turned the attention to our own city and how GeoSpatial Creator could be used to showcase Birmingham’s rich heritage and cultural offer. We wanted to create a city-wide AR app for Brum which would tell the story behind our streets, landmarks and historical sites through the lens of AR and so the beginnings of Brum AR was born. 

We began chatting to Jez Collins, long time BOM friend but also the brains behind Birmingham Music Archive. Our city has such an impressive musical history and we knew our app should launch with a strong music themed experience. The app will allow users to visualise where the city’s superstars began their journey, step back in time to see what venues looked like when music icons, Black Sabbath and UB40 were making their mark. In addition, it will also allow event listings and click-through to purchasing tickets to support the night-time economy. 

Collaboration and the initial music themed experience

Collaboration is key and it’s important for us to unite cultural partners across the city and enable a rich and ever-evolving app for the city. Before long, we were excited to welcome onboard Business Improvement Districts, these include Southside BID, Colmore BID and City Curator, Alex Nicholson-Evans and more recently, Jewellery Quarter BID who became interested in the Brum AR concept. They could all see the opportunity for the city and were excited to join us and pledge their support. By working with multiple partners, this allows Brum AR to increase impact and lifespan and builds the foundation of a bigger infrastructure. As a result, this allows cultural partners to bring their ideas to life in a cost-effective way, which we will create through future themed layers (think Peaky Blinders, street art, food and drink).

Together, we knew that the app would be a great opportunity to promote the rich, cultural offer across the city which will help drive tourism and increase footfall. The BID’s levered initial funding from the UK Government for a prototype via the UK Shared Prosperity Fund which, matched with BOM’s own studio time in-kind, meant we could develop the core app functionality and the first music themed layer. Excitement was growing and Jez Collins was officially appointed to curate the first music themed layer, sharing his expertise and research whilst the BIDs contributed to the concept development.

Prototyping

BOM’s immersive studio team began working on the prototype in December 2023, building a scalable digital framework for easy integration of future themes and partnerships. We have designed the app on Android in the first instance, and plan to create an iOS version in time for the app’s official public launch at Birmingham Tech Week in October 2024.

We’ve been excited to see first-hand how the city looks in AR which includes some notable Brum landmarks. Expect points of interest with kiosks sharing historical information, animated AR icons (how could we not include Ozzy?!), an interactive map view and detailed venue information.

Whether you’re a Brummie or a tourist new to the city, Brum AR will allow you to experience the city in a whole new way, with users choosing their own immersive journey which blends the city’s rich history, vibrant culture and progressive spirit. 

While our first themed layer for the prototype is exploring Birmingham’s rich musical heritage and promoting current live music events, we are already in touch with partners to shape the next potential layer, stay tuned!

We’re ready for beta testers

Brum AR is all about collaboration and we’re looking for beta testers to help shape the future of the app. 

As a beta tester, we want you to go into the city centre and engage with the content. Help us provide feedback via a questionnaire and let us know what works well, what needs improving and what you’d like to see in future iterations of the app. 

Our beta testing window is now open and will close on Friday 26th April.

The device requirements:

This beta testing window is for Android devices only. The minimum software requirement is Android 8.0 (Oreo), as the app requires ARCore and Geospatial API support.

The process:

  1. Sign up using the form below, providing your Google Play email account. 
  2. Via the Google Play linked email account you will be invited to download the beta app.
  3. Use the app and test its capabilities in the city centre. 
  4. Fill out a feedback tester form to share your experiences.
  5. We will keep you informed on future developments of the app.

Sign up below:

https://forms.gle/pwRrCcWU2FvA3W52A

Brum AR is an app by BOM (Birmingham Open Media). The prototype for Brum AR has been developed by BOM in collaboration with Southside BID, Colmore BID, Jez Collins from Birmingham Music Archive, City Curator, Alex Nicholson-Evans and additional support from Jewellery Quarter BID.

This project is funded by the UK government through the UK Shared Prosperity Fund.

The UK Shared Prosperity Fund is a central pillar of the UK government’s Levelling Up agenda and provides £2.6 billion of funding for local investment by March 2025. The Fund aims to improve pride in place and increase life chances across the UK investing in communities and place, supporting local business, and people and skills. For more information, visit https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/uk-shared-prosperity-fund-prospectus