Moverio Augmented Reality glasses transform Fort l’Ecluse experience

Moverio smart glasses create an immersive AR experience

Moverio Augmented Reality glasses transform Fort l’Ecluse experience

The historical building of Fort l’Ecluse uses Augmented Reality to create an immersive visitor experience using Moverio smart glasses from Epson. The unique attraction tells the story of the lives of the soldiers who once lived at Fort l’Ecluse and provides multilingual, informative and entertaining content in an innovative way.

Fort l’Ecluse uses Epson AR glasses to bring history to life in a unique setting

Epson Moverio smart glasses help link historical education to thrilling physical activity.

Fort l’Ecluse is situated in the Léaz region of eastern France. It commands breathtaking views over the Rhône valley and was built to guard the natural entrance into France from Switzerland between the Vuache hills and the Jura Mountains. The upper part of the fort, built in the mid-19th century, is in a stunning location and is now both a protected building of significant historical interest and an assault course. Both roles are ingeniously combined in a climbing experience that, via the use of Epson Moverio smart glasses, combines exhilarating physical activity with education.

The assault course features zip wires that fly over the castle ramparts, rope ladders and bridges that snake through the historical features of the building, and precarious climbs along tiny ledges on the dizzying heights of the sheer outer walls. All is made safe by a ‘via ferrata’ style climbing system by which the user is attached to a steel cable anchored to the rock surfaces at all times. The specially adapted Epson Moverio smart glasses are used by children and adults alike and bring the historical experience to life using their augmented reality (AR) capability.

Linked experiences

Christophe Bouvier, President of Pays de Gex Agglo, the inter-municipal cooperative of the surrounding area, says that the initial idea was not only to have an assault course, but also to show the history and lives of the soldiers who lived in the fort. He explains that the challenge was to find a way to link these two experiences together,

“The solution we found was using smart glasses. After discussions with Epson we found the best glasses for our needs”.

The breakthrough was that the glasses could be worn whilst fully engaging in the assault course. They are attached securely to the participants’ safety helmets and can be flipped up to rest above the helmet when not in use, and flipped down again in front of the eyes for the AR experience.

Discovering the past and present

Due to the protected status of the fort’s architecture it is necessary to minimise the physical and visual impact of any installations. In addition to this there are constraints which are linked to the exposed nature of the site; it is very hot in the summer, very cold in the winter and the winds can be fierce. This means that typical scenography techniques are not possible. Furthermore, since the fort is in a multicultural area close to Geneva, the experience needs to be offered in several languages. Nicolas Renard, an assault course instructor at the fort says,

“Augmented reality glasses are the solution that offers a completely new experience to the visitors; because with the Moverio glasses on, the visitor can see the information overlaid on the scene, it means that the site is not spoiled. So for us it was really the solution for visitors to discover this site in a very different way”.

After vertigo-inducing climbs on the walls, participants can give their limbs a rest and take in dramatic views on the parapet at the highest point of the fort. With the glasses in position and as they slowly turn their head to survey the landscape, points of interest, such as Mont Blanc are displayed in the AR view of the glasses. To the visitor, the highest mountain in the Alps is not immediately visible, and the glasses are able to highlight geographical features in a location where a conventional metal plaque or signage board is not possible.

Renard’s favourite experience using the glasses is one that really brings to life the conditions in which the soldiers at the fort lived. Their rations were stored on shelves that hung from the ceiling of the stone-walled rooms, to protect the food from mice, “All of a sudden, through the glasses, you see mice running around on the floor”. The combined experience of physical fun and learning is further enhanced by the fact that visitors have to jump across suspended wooden beams to avoid the virtual mice as part of the assault course.

Bridging the age gap

At Fort l’Ecluse, the Epson Moverio smart glasses help connect education and adventure, and demonstrate how this technology can appeal to children and adults alike. Lucas, an 11-year-old boy who visited with a group of his schoolmates said,

“It’s great! I’ve learned all sorts of things about this place. You learn on the move, by listening and watching (through the glasses)”.

Pascal, an adult who completed the course with a younger relative said,

“I absolutely recommend this experience. We will definitely come back!”

As with most outdoor attractions, Fort l’Ecluse is keen to see returning visitors, and generating a positive cultural experience combined with lots of fun and exercise, is a winning formula. The fact that this is achieved without the need to change the fabric of the fort in any detrimental way, not only satisfies preservation constraints, but also means Fort l’Ecluse can be enjoyed with its ancient architectural integrity fully intact, adding to the authenticity of the experience. Christophe Bouvier says,

“The immersive visitor experience we offer here would certainly not be possible without the Epson smart glasses. They help us to showcase the fort’s unique cultural heritage. It’s very positive for us”.

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