Lonely Planet Writer

Augmented reality set to revolutionize US cultural tours

Major historic sites in the US are set to enter the virtual world for the first time ever with thanks to new augmented reality (AR) tours using smart glasses. Places like George Washington’s Mount Vernon and James Monroe’s Highland are now to be kitted out with the latest storytelling AR software from ARtGlass.

They’re collaborating with Epson, a provider of the Moverio® AR smart eyewear platform to deliver these virtual realities to visitors.

Ash Lawn-Highland Home of President James Monroe, Albemarle County, Virginia
Explore Ash Lawn-Highland, home of President James Monroe in, Albemarle County, Virginia Image by GettyImages/Joe Sohm/Visions of America

“When we first launched ARtGlass in Italy, we knew that if we could overcome the challenges of bringing wearable AR tours to the Old World, we’d be ready for the New World,” said Greg Werkheiser, ARtGlass co-founder, and CEO, in Washington, D.C. “We are thrilled now to help revolutionize cultural tours at U.S. sites.”

Highland, the historic home of President James Monroe, was the first US site to launch the AR tours. It has been a part of the College of William & Mary since 1974 and is currently the only US president’s home owned by a university.

Mount Vernon is owned and operated by the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association, America’s oldest national preservation organization, founded in 1853.  Since 1860, more than 85 million visitors have made George Washington’s Mount Vernon the most popular historic home in America.

Mount Vernon
Mount Vernon: The home of former president of the US, George Washington. Image by GettyImages/JacobH

Visitors who participate in the AR tours can roam through augmented environments, with 3D holograms, pictures and videos and text appearing amidst real-world art, artifacts and landscapes – completely hands-free. “US museums and cultural sites attract more visits annually than pro sporting events and theme parks combined,” said Werkheiser. “The future of history is bright.”

ARtGlass is the first company in the world to bring wearable AR to the mainstream of cultural tourism. The company along with Epson have already provided over 500,000 experiences at dozens of museums, palaces, and ruins throughout Europe.