QR code in Nancy

Virtual and augmented reality: new tools to guide passengers

QR code in Nancy
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PostedAPR. 24, 2024
Words byKeolis
    In Nancy, France, a significant transformation is in progress as the main tram line transitions to a trolley bus line due to ongoing track work. With buses now traveling along a different route and new stops emerging, keeping passengers informed and directed to the correct stops has become a priority. To address this challenge, Keolis and Métropole du Grand Nancy have introduced a new augmented reality guidance solution for smartphones.

    What is augmented reality? And how is it different from virtual reality? 

    Virtual reality and augmented reality are two technologies that offer distinct immersive experiences. Using a virtual reality headset, users can step into a digital environment and interact with it, engaging in activities such as visiting a landmark or exhibition and receiving job training in real-life conditions. Augmented reality, on the other hand, overlays digital information onto real-time images. For example, it can superimpose old buildings onto a modern landscape or provide real-time details about a product. Unlike virtual reality, augmented reality does not require any special equipment other than a connected device with a screen and camera, such as a smartphone or tablet. This technology, enriching reality in real time, facilitates the development of simple and efficient guidance applications.

    In Nancy, this user guidance solution was adopted during the decision to replace the Reserved Rail Transportation tramway line with a trolley bus. Due to ongoing rail work, which began in March 2023 and will continue until the end of 2024, a temporary bus line was established along a parallel route with new stops. Augmented reality was integrated into the existing signage, including signposts, ground markings and maps, at all previous stops to guide each passenger to the nearest station through their smartphone.  

    Augmented reality in Nancy
    Augmented reality in Nancy
    Trolley-bus in Nancy

    Guidance through augmented reality on a mobile device 

    Simplicity was the guiding principle in developing the solution by Keolis, Métropole du Grand Nancy and their technical partner WeMap. The highly intuitive system operates with ease: users scan a QR Code with their smartphone without needing to download or create an account, and then they follow the step-by-step instructions. Utilizing geolocation, the route to the nearest new stop is communicated in real time, with the journey displayed either in augmented reality or on a 2D map. 

    Special attention was given to ensuring clarity in the information provided to the user, avoiding screen overload. Directions to the next stop, distance to travel and bus transit times are clearly presented. Users can also plan their journey from the interface.

    This innovative and practical augmented reality guidance solution deployed in Nancy marks a first for public transport in France. The innovation even received recognition at the Keolis Innovation Awards 2023 in the Passengers category.

    WeMap Nancy
    WeMap Nancy
    Olivier Henriot

    Olivier Henriot

    Directeur Innovations, Projets & Systèmes d’Information chez Keolis

    "This technology has not been deployed anywhere else in public transport. However, it is extremely easy to replicate because no major technical development or resources are required for the system."

    An upgradeable augmented reality solution  

    Keolis involved users in designing and improving the entire passenger support system, encompassing both traditional signage and digital assistance. Through regular surveys and feedback, the teams made several adjustments, including to the size of maps displayed at stops. This approach ensures the deployment of an effective end-to-end service and contributes to the positive feedback from users of the “augmented guidance” solution.

    One of the major benefits of this augmented reality system lies in its ability to provide constantly updated data. Unlike physical devices, which can become obsolete as work progresses (for example, with the opening of a new stop or changes to the replacement bus route) or susceptible to damage from weather conditions and deterioration over time, this technology receives continuous updates. As a result, the quality of the guidance support remains consistently reliable, enabling users to easily adapt to their surroundings.

    An increasingly augmented guidance application 

    The augmented reality solution serves as a rich source of data for Keolis. Utilizing anonymized data collected in real time, such as frequently accessed routes and surges in network activity, the operator gains deeper insights into network usage and passenger habits. This understanding allows Keolis to adapt its service offer to meet user expectations as closely as possible.

    The augmented guidance project has matured and will remain active until the line is completed. New features will continue to be added until the end of 2024, including information on nearby bike-sharing stations and the promotion of local cultural events and markets.

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