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Samsung tablets and augmented reality coming to UK’s top tourist spot

Augmented reality (AR) apps, which allow people with smartphones and tablets to superimpose information onto real-time images, are growing in popularity. Google is thought to be taking it to the extreme with the rumored launch of a pair of AR ‘Terminator’ spectacles later this year, allowing the wearer to bring up information about nearby restaurants and tourist spots literally right in front of their eyes.

According to a report this week, the UK’s number one (paid) tourist spot, the giant London Eye Ferris wheel on the banks of the River Thames, is also about to join the AR club with the launch of its own app.

Initially for Android devices — an iOS version is in the works — passengers on the wheel will from next month be able to use their mobile device to discover a whole lot more about the panoramic view before them.

As they climb gently to a height of 135 metres (443 feet), passengers will be able to use the AR app to pull up detailed information on the screen of their smartphone or tablet to find out more about the many buildings located along the Thames and far beyond. The app will also explain to users about how the giant observation wheel works and offer audio guides in five languages.

If you’re not equipped with a smartphone or tablet, fear not. From May this year, all 32 pods on the wheel, each of which can hold up to 25 people, will be equipped with Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 tablets (you heard it right, not Apple iPads) with content relating specifically to the ride and the view.

The changes come as a result of a recent survey conducted by the ride’s operator, EDF Energy. It showed that more than anything, passengers wanted to have as much information as possible about the many sights viewable from the capsule.

David Sharpe of Merlin Entertainments Group, the company that owns the observation wheel, said, “I’ve worked at the London Eye for 10 years now, enjoying countless rotations and I can assure our guests that the new interactive touchscreens provide a fresh view of the capital.”

Utilizing mobile devices and augmented reality in this way will enrich the passengers’ experience without a doubt, but they should also remember to take a moment to savor the stunning vista with their own eyes instead of looking at it through a glass panel the whole time.

The London Eye, which takes about 30 minutes to complete a full rotation, was opened in 2000 and has since become the UK’s most popular tourist attraction, with around 3.75 million people hopping aboard each year.

[Top image: Simon Round / Shutterstock] [Bottom image: StockLite / Shutterstock]