The story behind Historiscope

A peculiar need brought Historiscope into existence.

In 2020, Historic Environment Scotland (HES) was facing a challenge. One where they observed a lack of engagement and interaction between the tourists and their monuments.

The humble telescope being an interactive device caught our attention.

Together, we reimagined the telescope and built Scotland’s first Augmented Reality enabled viewing scope – Historiscope.

People behind Historiscope

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Historiscope is a product of SENSEcity.

SENSEcity Studio is an Immersive Design Studio based in Glasgow that specialises in the development of Augmented Reality (AR) and Mixed Reality (MR) experiences for the cultural heritage and tourism sectors. The team holds expertise in designing and developing custom hardware using sustainable methods and software products. So, heritage environments can be brought to life and visitors and inspired to engage with culture in a whole new way.

This made SENSEcity the perfect choice to bring Historiscope alive.

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Why we built the Historiscope?

Historic Environment Scotland (HES) is the lead public body established to investigate, care for, and promote Scotland’s historic environment. In 2020, HES was facing a challenge. 

The challenge was to reimagine their existing tourist telescope. They wanted to develop a new product that would allow visitors to engage more directly with a monument from a precise outdoor viewpoint by delivering a range of content, including historical, reconstructed, or inaccessible views. 

SENSEcity embarked on the challenge to design and develop a new generation viewing scope, which later became Scotland’s first Augmented Reality enabled viewing scope.

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Photo credits: Historic Environment Scotland

The journey behind Historiscope

September 2020Challenge

In September 2020, we were issued a challenge by Historic Environment Scotland through Creative Informatics. The challenge was to move beyond the traditional telescope and enhance the visitor experience through a wholly reimagined product.

January 2021Ideation

Countless ideas were thrown. We followed an iterative design process that saw multiple 3D renders and a million sketches. All to develop a proof of concept at Urquhart Castle, Scotland.

March 2021Research

We moved to research content for our first Historiscope device. In collaboration with the historians at HES, our archaeological expert scripted an authentic medieval narrative for Urquhart Castle. We used LiDAR (Laser Scans), historical archive imagery, and archaeological grey literature to ensure period and locational accuracy.

July 2021Design

We blended an ancient monolithic structure with a futuristic headset to create the first paper prototype of the Historiscope. Metal fabricators helped bring these drawings to life.

September 2021Proof of concept at Urquhart Castle

On 13th of September 2021, the proof of concept was installed at Urquhart Castle. Even in its short run of two weeks, it was a roaring success. This motivated us to take it to the next level.

November 2021Innovate UK Funding

The success at Urquhart led to further support from HES and UKRI. Innovate UK honored SENSEcity with funding that helped us refine the Historiscope further.

January 2022Prototyping for Stirling Castle

With our new funding, we developed the next prototype at Stirling Castle. The user feedback from Urquhart Castle was heavily applied in the design process. We deployed an ergonomic step for easier access to the device and upgraded the AR technology for a refined experience.

March 2022Prototype Launch & User Testing at Stirling Castle

The prototype at Stirling Castle was unveiled, and the public enjoyed a futuristic interactive heritage experience. This became our first operational device, and it was savored by approximately 20k monthly visitors.

December 2022SENSEcity won Scottish Edge
Creative Edge Award 20′

The first time our founder pitched at Scottish Edge, she had recently graduated and pitched our first product, SENSEcity Walks. 

A few rounds later and after 3 different applications and a whole new product, we got to take home the prestigious Creative Edge Award 20!

December 2022SENSEcity gets recognised as Tech Nation Rising Stars 5.0 Scotland Region winners!

We have been named as the Scotland Region winners in the Rising Stars 5.0 competition. 

The process behind Historiscope

From research to installation

Step 1: Expert Consultation
Step 2: Background Research
Step 3: Create the AR Experience
Step 4: Developing the AR Application
Step 5: Hardware Installation

Step 1: Expert Consultation

We start our process with you!

Understanding your vision becomes our motivation. We meet you to discuss ideas that add an immersive edge to your location. We work with you to find the perfect spot for the Historiscope to be installed and then deploy our dedicated teams to begin work.

Step 2: Background Research

After aligning with your vision, we conduct an independent research on the historical narrative for your location. Our heritage professionals collect data, derived from archaeological remains and primary and secondary historical sources. In some cases, photographic or visual imagery is also leveraged if the historical period allows.

Our research lends itself into a customised narrative that’s scripted and developed as an AR scene.

Step 3: Create the AR Experience

Inspired by your site’s custom narrative, our 3D visual artists develop accurate scenes that are informed and iterative in nature. The scene goes through a series of checks where each detail is verified for accuracy based on the latest archaeological and historical research.

Step 4: Developing the AR Application

Immersive 3D designs are created to bring the narrative alive. Our software developers take these elements and build a stable application which helps in running the AR experience from the Historiscope device.

The application also houses a ‘Press and Play’ feature, which allows visitors to travel back in time via AR at the tap of a button.

Step 5: Hardware Installation

We provide a seamless installation process. Once the spot is finalised, our hardware fabricator brings various parts of the Historiscope and pieces them together on a plinth. With a stable power supply and a pre-decided installation template, the process is smoothly completed in a day.

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Where to next?

Have a location in mind, contact our experts today!

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