SK Telecom announced on July 27 that it, together with the Cultural Heritage Administration and Google, launched “Changdeok ARirang,” an augmented reality (AR) service based on 5G edge cloud to provide an immersive experience for visitors of Changdeokgung Palace.
Changdeokgung Palace (or Changdeok Palace) was built in 1405 by King Taejong, the third ruler of Joseon Dynasty. All palaces in Seoul were burnt down during the Japanese invasion in 1592 and Changdeokgung Palace became the first palace to be rebuilt in 1610. Since then, it became the primary palace for about 270 years where 13 kings including the last monarch dealt with state affairs. Changdeokgung Palace was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997 and is regarded as a masterpiece of Korean palace architecture where the buildings are in perfect harmony with the natural setting.
Upon activating the Changdeok ARirang app and holding their phones towards the palace, users will get a surprise welcome from “haechi,” a mythical creature believed to guard the palace. Haechi, a virtual guide, will escort visitors throughout the palace, providing detailed information on 12 different tourist spots within the palace as well as interesting historical stories.
To make the visit more interactive and memorable, Changdeok ARirang offers diverse AR experiences to visitors, allowing them to watch a royal court dance performance, play Korean traditional games in AR and take AR pictures.
With Changdeok ARirang, visitors can also 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 restricted area, visitors will see an AR portal from which visitors can be transported to the beautiful Secret Garden.
5G Android smartphone users can download the Changdeok ARirang app from Google Play and One Store. The app supports both the Korean and English languages. Those who do not have a 5G smartphone can experience the service by borrowing a 5G smartphone for free at Changdeokgung Palace from July 28 to Dec. 31.
Changdeok ARirang is designed to deliver a true 5G-based AR experience to users by realizing 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 percent faster speed when downloading contents from the Changdeok ARirang app.
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 augmented and virtual reality corporation in Korea. They built the AR experience based on Google Cloud, ARCore, Google’s AR platform, and other latest AR technologies including Lighting Estimation and Cloud Anchor.
With Google’s Cloud Anchor, which is used to enable 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 contents appear 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 contents realized through ICT. 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 the site.
Moreover, they will also introduce ‘Changdeok ARirang at Home,’ which provides a virtual tour of Changdeokgung for those who cannot physically visit the palace, in August 2020. By downloading the Changdeok ARirang at Home app from Google Play, anyone across the world can take a tour of the beautiful Korean palace regardless of his/her location through diverse AR and VR contents. The service, which is currently available in English and Korean, is expected to deliver a unique cultural experience to people at a time when traveling is not really an option due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“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,” said John Lee, country director at Google Korea. “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.”
“The spread of non-face-to-face interaction (‘untact’) culture due to the COVID-19 outbreak is transforming how we experience arts and culture,” said Chung Jae-suk, the administrator of the Cultural Heritage Administration. “I hope that Changdeok ARirang will serve as a valuable opportunity for people around the world to enjoy Korea’s beautiful cultural heritage.”
“We are excited to introduce to the world an innovative 5G-powered augmented reality tour for Changdeokgung Palace, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, said Yea Hui-kang, vice president and head of brand marketing group of SK Telecom. “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.”