Hiroshima augmented reality app to show before/after images of atomic bombing

The Atomic Bomb Dome, a.k.a. ruin of Hiroshima Prefectural Industrial Promotion Hall in Hiroshima. Credit: Pepperer85 / Shutterstock, Inc

ITEM: City authorities in Hiroshima are planning a smartphone app that uses augmented reality to show tourists what landmark buildings such as the Atomic Bomb Dome looked like before US forces dropped the atomic bomb on the city in 1945.

According to The Mainichi newspaper, the app is part of the city government’s plan to promote “Peace Tourism” for tourists from overseas:

… the app will be designed to take visitors along a peace trail, starting from the A-bomb Dome and leading to other bombing-related spots such as the former Bank of Japan Hiroshima branch and the Fukuromachi Elementary School Peace Museum. If visitors hold up their smartphones or tablets in front of the affected structures, the app will show the pictures of them before and after the nuclear devastation together with explanations in English.

The newspaper reports that Hiroshima has budgeted 9.5 million yen (around $85,000) to develop the app and improve Wi-Fi connections in areas along the peace trail.

The government is expecting a spike in tourists this year as a result of former US President Barack Obama’s visit to Hiroshima in May last year. However, tourists in Hiroshima typically only make a day trip to the city. A city official heading the project told The Mainichi that they hope the app will not only help visitors “deeply learn the realities of damage caused by the atomic bombing” but also stay in Hiroshima longer for sightseeing.

The app is slated to be released August 6, the 72nd anniversary of the bombing.

A similar project was initiated last year in Nagasaki, the second US target of atomic destruction in World War II. Nagasaki University developed a 3D computer model of the city using archive photographs of the destruction, which users could then explore using virtual reality.

According to the BBC, the VR model allowed users to explore a 500-meter radius around the bomb’s hypocenter, complete with the sound of footsteps on rubble and wind blowing through the ruins:

The model requires users to first walk around modern-day Nagasaki with a tablet computer, and their route is logged using GPS. That same journey is then recreated in virtual reality, so people can simply don 3D glasses to see what their journey would have looked like in the aftermath of the bomb.

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