Augtraveler: An Immersive Augmented Reality based Travel App to Explore the Cultural Heritage of India
By Pankaj Manchanda
Founder & CEO
The significance and aim of heritage preservation have been extensively debated in tourist studies. Natural degradation, development activities, and overcrowding all contribute to the importance of historical preservation initiatives in ensuring the long-term viability of heritage assets.
Augtraveler is an award winning and globally recognised app-based platform that uses cutting-edge technology such as AR/VR, geolocation, multimedia, and analytics to interpret and promote World Heritage Sites. Its vision also calls for the sensitization and preservation of a region's tangible and intangible cultural assets in accordance with the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
In an exclusive interview with CIO Insider Magazine, Pankaj Manchanda walks us through the unique traits of the company and shares more about the success of the firm, here’s the highlight from the same.
Tell us about the vision of Augtraveler and how does it differentiate with the other players in the industry so far?
As a next generation travel tech startup, Augtraveler has a distinct vision and mandate, with clear alignments to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals 11, 8, and 4. Our proposition is to incorporate state of the art Immersive (AR/VR) technology, as well as Geolocation and Analytics, to create a holistic, scalable platform that provides highly engaging personalised travel experiences to travelers from all over the world, complemented by authentic interpretation of UNESCO World Heritage Sites and cultural trails.
We have partnered with global knowledge partners to offer enhanced travel experiences with the goal of promoting and thereby preserving the rich and diverse cultures of many places through their tangible and intangible heritage. The platform has the ability to influence and improve the lives of local people near heritage sites by linking them directly to travellers who can purchase local products and services from them on their curated exploration walks and trails. This feature is reinforced further by our online marketplace, through which the communities reach out to a much larger audience throughout the year.
We also have a school outreach programme - 'Augtraveler Education Series,' which we run in collaboration with Macmillan Education India. We
have evolved ourselves to adopt experiential learning pedagogy and develop cross-disciplinary (curriculum aligned) activity books at the grade level to help make the experience of visiting World Heritage Sites much more fun and interesting for students, while also transforming our heritage sites into knowledge dissemination zones.
Could you tell us about the company’s unique propositions offered to clients?
Our one-of-a-kind strategy ensures the generation of new economic prospects while retrenching and preserving local cultural traditions, and contributing to the evolution of a model aligned with the UN Sustainable Development Goals. The project is focused on offering interpretation of Heritage Sites and Cultural Narratives, which are curated with the help of top knowledge experts and partners across the globe. Our award-winning smart phone-based experience offers greater reach for the masses; apt use of technology improves tourist experience. The platform brings local communities on board to promote and, as a result, protect their tangible and intangible history. This model also, further aids in the establishment of an ecosystem of sustainable livelihoods for these communities.
The platform also allows local travel partners/tour guides/walk leaders to author and build their own experiences. At the micro level, this digital intervention in post-COVID times will assist them in evolving as more robust and sustainable businesses. This strategy will also encourage partners to develop new paths, thereby reducing the key problem of 'over tourism', which is typically the case in most tourist destinations.
We intend to preserve our heritage for future generations. They are, however, not sufficiently informed about the complexities of the diverse cultures, traditions, and heritage. Our effort is to encourage them to respect and recognise our values and legacy as a human species, which appears to be fading in these turbulent times.
In addition, the platform is scalable and can be utilized and extended to operate globally. Our roadmap includes a variety of revenue sources (B2B/ B2C), including a community online marketplace, targeted advertising approaches, curated cultural treasure hunt games, and an education model. Our product positioning has evolved with the goal of creating a 'Win-Win' situation for all stake holders.
Could you give a brief account on the technologies used by the company in multimedia tours?
The Augtraveler app-based platform enhances the visitor experience across India's world heritage sites by utilising next generation technologies such as Augmented Reality, 360 VR media, Geo-location, Analytics, and Multimedia. If we talk about the overall features, it provides immersive experiences of World Heritage sites, custom heritage trails on maps, a calendar section that
lists top cultural events in a city, top hidden gems in a city powered by Trip Advisor, and a curated online marketplace for travellers that lists authentic arts, crafts, cuisines, and experiences from local communities.
Briefly tell us about the workforce of the company responsible for its success.
The Augtraveler project is being driven by myself and our AR Tech Lead, Sumit Gupta. We have been extensively guided by our Senior Advisor Fergus Maclaren, a sustainable tourism and cultural heritage resources management specialist based out of Canada. We also have been supported by Manish Upadhyay as a partner in this project.
Our core team are seasoned professionals from the Education Technology domain. We have demonstrated success over the years in establishing global enterprises and curating content and technology-based platforms for a worldwide audience. I'm also a member of the ICOMOS International Cultural Tourism Committee. Further, some of our global knowledge partners and supporters include DRONAH; World Monument Fund, India; Global Heritage Fund, Prof. Barry Perlus at Cornell University; Ar. Kavita Jain; ICOMOS; Dr. Swapna Liddle; INTACH Delhi; Macmillan Education; Korea Cultural Centre; Our World Heritage, Aayojan School of Architecture, Ricky Kej, and so on.
What are the opportunities that you foresee? Which are the areas that Augtraveler is going to advance in and what’s its future roadmap?
Augtraveler in its current initial phase has a mandate to cover interpretation of all 32 Cultural World Heritage sites of India. We will also evolve to build similar trails for the remaining eight World Heritage Natural Sites (including 1 World Heritage Mixed Site). We also have mandates to curate self-guided heritage walks in the vicinity of these sites and on board the local communities whilst extending their unique products, services, experiences onto our curated online market place for travellers.
In addition, we will also curate some prominent cultural and heritage trails in the country, such as the Zoroastrian trail with UNESCO Parzor foundation, Buddhist trail, and more. Building interpretation for Museums is another crucial spoke that we are currently experimenting with. At this stage we are working on some key museum projects for the government along with Dr. Shikha Jain and her team at DRONAH.
Our school outreach module will be spearheaded by our partner Macmillan Education and the experiences and books will be extended to their school partner ecosystem across the country.
Augtraveler also has mid to long term plans of curating the top 100 UNESCO World Heritage Sites across the globe. Our mission is to re-define the way people travel and explore the history and culture of a place.