A team of hackers are looking to capitalise on the popularity of games like Pokémon Go and Minecraft Earth to draw more visitors to Aberdeen’s Union Street.
It is hoped that the use of augmented reality could help draw ‘thousands’ to the beleaguered Granite Mile in the future.
There have been a series of major closures on what was once the city’s shopping Mecca since the coronavirus pandemic, with also rising complaints about anti-social behaviour.
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But in the new venture, Code the City has teamed up with the Our Union Street group to examine several projects where its volunteers can use big data to create new opportunities for the high street.
The charity will stage a ‘Hack Weekend’ later this month where up to 100 volunteers will start to build digital models and look at how open data can be used to support regeneration efforts.
They will also seek to document the history of Union Street buildings over time, and collect photographs of every building on the mile-long stretch.
Since launching earlier this year, Our Union Street has harvested over 10,000 ideas from businesses, community groups and members of the public.
The not-for-profit organisation will soon publish its five key action areas having spent the summer investigating a number of themes and issues.
Chairman Bob Keiller said creating new and innovative experiences will play a central part in the group’s strategy for the street going forward.
He said: “We have seen how successful events like Spectra and NuArt have been at bringing people into the city centre.
“We want to explore how we can add to that by combining good storytelling with technology and data.
“By placing digital assets in the city centre, we can give people an additional reason to visit, as well as creating fun family experiences, encouraging people to explore parts of the city centre they might not visit otherwise.”
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Using apps and hardware such as smartphones, augmented reality overlays digital content onto real-life environments and objects.
The most famous example is Pokemon Go, which is popular smartphone app that combines gaming with the real world.
The game uses location tracking and mapping technology to create an ‘augmented reality’ where players catch and train Pokémon characters in real locations.
Ian Watt, co-founder of Code the City, appealed for volunteers of all backgrounds to take part in the hack weekend.
He said: “Attendees come from all walks of life. These can include subject area experts in things like heritage, architecture, planning, culture and history, or and those with specific technical skills such as coding, mapping, data science and data visualisation, 3D modelling, virtual or augmented reality, and so on.
“We also like to see citizens with a general interest in the subject who can bring a real-world experience, and those with a passion for a subject.
“Whether you have technical skills, a knowledge or passion for the subject, can organise groups, help with transcription, or can make coffee and hand out sweets to keep teams energised, we need you.”
The Union Street and City Centre Hack Weekend will take place on Saturday and Sunday September 23rd and 24th.
Click here for more information or to sign-up to take part.