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Smartphone-Mediated Tourist Experiences: Understanding the Influence of Augmented Reality (AR) Applications in Tourism
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The synergy of smartphone, mobile applications (apps) and Augmented Reality (AR) technology has the potential to mediate tourism experiences to great extents. The advent of AR apps on smartphones provides a dynamic solution for tourists by helping convey destinations’ meanings and creates positive experiences via interactive tourist information and services almost anywhere, anytime. As a result, tourists are increasingly using AR travel apps at destinations to create more memorable travel experiences. Despite vast literature on tourists’ experiences, there is limited research focusing on understanding the use of smartphones and AR apps for tourism. A critical review of the literature indicates that there is a need to develop a richer theoretical framework that describes the use of smartphones and AR apps for travel. In addition, there is a need to understand tourists’ experiences with smartphone-mediated technology. In particular, literature on understanding of the use of smartphones and apps for travel is largely established from a quantitative perspective, and it is argued that this perspective cannot provide an in-depth understanding of the mechanisms that affect the use of smartphones and travel apps, which in turn shapes the travel experience. The present qualitative study was designed to understand the current use and possible benefits of smartphone-mediated tourism experiences with AR apps. Specifically, the purpose of this study was to examine the influence of AR apps on tourists’ experiences. The study sought to understand how tourists used AR apps, which specific interactions with the mobile devices were afforded, what emotions were evoked through interaction with the AR technology, and how the technology mediated tourist’s experiences. Based on this notion, the study attempted to generate an inductive middle-range theory on smartphone-mediated tourism experiences using grounded theory method. An iPhone AR app was developed for the Texas A&M University campus to better understand how tourists used the AR app and how this use influenced their travel experiences. Forty-four participants inclusive of students, prospective students and visitors of Texas A&M University were recruited for the study. To aid theory building and enhance the solidity of the smartphone-mediated travel experience theory, the study included a control group, which involve individual, group and guided tours that only use a brochure/campus booklet or listen to a human tour guide. The AR app was tested on 10 individuals and 10 groups. For the control group, 6 individuals and 6 groups used brochure/campus booklet while touring the sites and 6 individuals and 6 groups listen to the tour-guide. This comparison provided detailed understanding of what happens in the absence of technology in travel experience, and a focus on apprehending what AR technology adds. Data were collected through face-to-face in-depth interviews with the participants and then transcribed and imported into ATLAS.TI 7.0 software for analysis. A grounded theory approach was used to analyze the data. The interview data were coded and presented in five major sections representing the research questions. The results of the study provided theoretical contributions in understanding the smartphone-mediated tourism experiences and offered practical implications for app design and interpretative services for tourist sites.
Anuar, Faiz Izwan (2013). Smartphone-Mediated Tourist Experiences: Understanding the Influence of Augmented Reality (AR) Applications in Tourism. Doctoral dissertation, Texas A&M University. Available electronically from