World’s first city hologram app brings York history to life

Who's that with you? The hologram app in action in York
Who's that with you? The hologram app in action in York

Who’s that with you? The hologram app in action in York

Famous York figures from history were brought back to life today through the magic of a groundbreaking smartphone app which puts our city on the map like never before.

Guy Fawkes, Margaret Clitherow and railway king George Hudson are among the characters who will pop up on your phone and interact with you as you walk round York. The app guides you to trigger points and then each figure explains a little of the city’s history before having their photograph taken with you.

City Of York Hologram Tour is the world’s first app of its kind, out now on iPhone and soon to follow on Android. It showcases the pioneering Ultra Reality technology developed by Appeartome, a young company based at York Science Park.

Forget augmented reality, an idea which has never quite worked. Ultra Reality turns your smartphone into a “hologram viewer” where you can play football with your favourite Premier League striker, or sing and dance alongside a film star.

It marks a step change in the potential of smartphones, says Chris Knight, the former advertising executive who co-founded Appeartome with technologist James Riley.

“It’s a leap forward. People’s jaws drop when they see it,” said Chris, at the Mansion House launch of Appeartome’s first apps.

“The possibilities are almost limitless. For media outlets, you could point your phone at a newspaper or magazine and a 3D image would stand up and talk to you – Boris Johnson, talking about ‘Boris bikes’, or a football commentator talking about a game.

“It works on really simple Android phones which are in use a lot in Africa and India. We can get the top Bollywood stars dancing in the streets of Mumbai with the kids.”

Income stream for York

The York tour app is a joint enterprise with City of York Council. Leader James Alexander said the council hadn’t paid anything for the app. There is a profit share agreement between it and Appeartome.

While the app is free, it costs £2.99 for an in-app download for all 22 90-second holograms. The council has agreed to contribute a set amount towards the cost of the app’s development via its share of this income. But once that sum is paid, the council will receive 50p from every in-app purchase, plus a share of the advertising by retailers and attractions within the app.

Appeartome has launched with four apps. Yorkshire Air Museum has an app where characters and their stories will come alive in the museum setting. These include bouncing bomb innovator Sir Barnes Wallis and legendary aviator Amy Johnson.

The Virtual Rangers app has just launched for the famous Glasgow Rangers football club. This sees players perform ball tricks and a number of legends appear for a photo-call, and has received numerous five-star ratings from fans around the world.

‘Mega rich’ Americans interested

Appeartome began from a conversation between Chris and James in September 2011 when the question was: why can’t you already do this on a smartphone? The answer was a phone’s lack of processing power. It took James eight months to overcome this obstacle and create the first app.

The business received seed funding of “a few hundred thousand pounds” to get it off the ground, Chris said. But now it is attracting interest from big spenders around the world.

“We have got a range of big hitting people wanting to get involved. Some mega famous, mega rich people in America want to meet us.”

Appeartome employs five people in York and six people in a subsidiary in Hyderabad, India – “clever mathematicians in Asia’s Silicon Valley,” Chris said.

He says they are committed to developing in York. “We’re looking forward to contributing to the pool of innovative talent that’s developing in this city. It’s an ancient city but it’s a forward looking city.”

Richard Bryan, managing director of Qa Research in York, is planning to work with Appeartome to help collect and analyise data from users of future apps.

“Everybody’s pinching themselves at the moment, saying ‘wow, this is really going to work!’ he said. “We’re delighted to work alongside Chris and James however they want us to, and the pace they want to go.”

How Guy Fawkes appears on the app

How Guy Fawkes appears on the app

Key app features

Holograms downloaded onto your phone. No streaming required
Automatic location recognition
Photo mode with save and share buttons
2D map for every hologram plus photo guide to location
3D augmented reality map guides you to your chosen hologram
‘Nearest to me’ locator button
Food and drink listings with AR locator button
Top locations locator with AR guidance

York holograph characters include

‘The Railway King’ George Hudson
Roman Catholic Martyr Saint Margaret Clitherow from the Shambles
Guy Fawkes
Thomas Hadfield, Dick Turpin’s hangman
Richard III’s valet