More Than Reality: Augmented Reality and other digital contents on Barone Fortress (Šibenik, Croatia)

Barone Fortress, one of the four fortresses which constitute the fortification system of the City of Šibenik, was built in the summer of 1646, at the same time as the nearby St. John's Fortress. Constructed in less than two months by the citizens of Šibenik, they significantly improved the mainland defence of the city. It was designed by a military engineer Antonio Leni, but the construction works were organized and supervized by a German mercenary in the Venetian service, Baron Christoph Martin von Degenfeld. Shortly after its completion, the new fortresses withstood a short Ottoman siege. Determined to conquer Šibenik, over 25.000 Ottoman soldiers led by the Bosnian Pasha Techieli besieged the city next year (1647), and after a month of fighting, a small Venetian garrison and the citizens under Baron von Degenfeld's command overcame the attacks and the Ottomans withdrew with some heavy losses. Honoring the hero of the city's defence, the grateful citizens named the smaller fortress Barone.
Project Barone: redescovering the rich past – the way to a successful future, financed by the EU Regional Development Fund and the City of Šibenik, commenced in July 2014, and this historical monument re-opened its doors in January 2016.
The project's main activities were: infrastructural work on the fortress' reconstruction; establishment of a gastro-cultural center which promotes the Mediterranean cuisine and lifestyle through cooperation with micro, small and medium enterpreneurs from the Šibenik-Knin County. However, the largest activity, and ultimately the biggest attraction of the Barone Fortress is its digital content, primarily a unique innovation in this area, the high-tech augmented reality platform (AR). Through this modern and innovative technology, a visitor can relive the dramatic circumstances that led to the construction of the Fortress and Šibenik's successful defense from the Ottoman invaders.
Augmented reality is a technological innovation in which the world that the user sees is augmented/expanded with computer-generated content such as audio, video or for example digital characters. Using AR technology, the user is interactively connected with the surrounding real world and digitally controls the access to certain information which are available. Augmented reality is triggered by the detection of visual targets. A smart device (AR glasses, smart phone or tablet) is required for using the technology. Today, AR is applied for various needs - military mapping, design, architecture, education and navigation. Due to the challenging process of placing digital characters and objects in a real-life space, the implementation of AR is technically more demanding than the now thriving Virtual Reality (VR) technology., This, as well as the sensitivity to weather conditions, is the reason that AR is still fairly rarely used in European museums, and those who applied it (British Museum, Museum of the Acropolis), use it indoors. On Barone Fortress however, augmented reality is used in the outdoors, and the historical experience of 17th century Šibenik becomes the main interpretative content on the site.
From the very beginning of the project, augmented reality technology was envisioned as the main tourist and educational attraction of the renovated Barone Fortress. As a base for the production of digital content, experts from Fortress of Culture have prepared detailed historical and cultural data, which was then used by KADEI consortium, the AR platform contractor. Combining the best out of the classical museum and the modern IT approach, they have developed a superb high-tech content. Today, upon arrival on the site, a visitor (or a group of them) has the opportunity to rent out the glasses for augmented reality. AR glasses have a built-in automatic program which starts during their activation, and a language menu (Croatian, English, German, Italian) is presented to the user. After selecting the language, user is instructed to take a walk on the northern brim of the Fortress. The augmented reality tour on Barone Fortress has five segments represented by five visual targets along the path. AR platform is activated while user is standing approx. 2 meters from the target, and the story of Barone Fortress begins. Each point has a special theme which lasts between 1 and 5 minutes (Introduction; 17th century Šibenik; the fortifications of Šibenik, the cannons of the fortress; the 1647 siege), and the overall tour with AR glasses is 20-25 minutes long. The user also meets digital guides which narrate the historical story – Jure, a boy from Šibenik and Frane Divnić, a historian from the 17th century and an eyewitness of the Ottoman attacks. The story segments combine the display of characters and actions through augmented reality with 3D animations which illustrate 17th century appearance of Šibenik, its fortresses and the battles. The city of Šibenik, 41 km2 of its surroundings , and 20,000 objects – including the most important ones (fortresses, city walls, St. Jacob's Cathedral) – are presented through AR. All in all, 40 million polygons were digitally rendered for the purposes of 3D display. Visitors can also use two AR viewpoints placed along the southern wall of the Fortress, which present the visible cultural and tourist offer of Šibenik visible from the Barone Fortress: the most important sights; local SMEs: accommodation providers; restaurants; family farms; souvenir shops. In addition, the view at today's Šibenik through AR viewpoints is one click away from a panorama of Šibenik from the 17th century. An 18 minutes long documentary was also filmed within the project, which brought the streets of Šibenik back to the 17th century, and turned its citizens into the old citizens of Šibenik – noblemen, craftsmen and soldiers. The historical development of the city, the most important figures and events are presented through an interactive touchscreen smart table.
The Fortress was re-opened on 29 January 2016, and its management was entrusted to Fortress of Culture – Šibenik, a self-sustainable public cultural institution established by the City of Šibenik. Fourteen months later, the results speak for themselves: 55,000 visitors, over 5,000 Friends Club members (mostly local population), about 30 special events – concerts, movie nights, promotions and workshops. Barone Fortress has won a Cultural Attraction of 2016, awarded by the Croatian Ministry of Tourism and Croatian Tourist Board; a Grand PRix in the category of regional and local administration, awarded by the Croatian Association for Public Relations; its digital features have won a MIXX award in the category ''Innovative use of technology'' at the Days of Communication 2016 in Rovinj, Croatia; the fortress has been shortlisted for European Heritage Label by the Croatian Ministry of Culture; the 18-min historical docufiction Barone has been screened at various movie festivals; a direct cooperation with over 60 micro, small and medium-sized enterprises was established, with their products available in the gastro-cultural center; 11 workers were directly employed on the Fortress, and dozens of others were employed indirectly through the project.
According to the 2014 TOMAS research, the average visitor of Šibenik-Knin County spends only 0,39€ for cultural events and features, a sixth score out of seven Adriatic counties of Croatia. The presentation of the counties cultural heritage had a same score among visitors. Following global ICT trends, this innovative feature reaches out to modern visitor/buyer and actively engages him into the culture of Šibenik. Global qualitative and quantitative trends were detected in Innovative tourism development strategy of the City of Šibenik – a ''new tourist'' is a dynamic and active consumer, well-educated, environmentally responsible and eager for new experiences and discoveries. A 2015 questionnaire showed that ''8 out of 10 visitors showed interest in exploring Šibenik history throught AR technology, although they do are not familiar with it, and can only speculate what it is'', and assessed that augmented reality has a WOW effect.
With its digital features focused on a ''new tourist'', Barone Fortress made a significant step forward in the presentation of cultural heritage, and has become a good example of high-quality, creative and sustainable cultural management.

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