Arromanches 1944: See what cannot be seen anymore thanks to augmented reality and satellite navigation

The Communauté de Communes Bessin, Seulles et Mer

The Communauté de Communes Bessin, Seulles et Mer is located in the French county of Calvados. It encompasses the D-Day landing beaches of June 1944, and especially the artificial harbour of Arromanches, built by the Allies to enable the supply of troops landed in Normandy.  Touristic activities, and tourism around theses historical sites in particular, are a major resource for the Communauté. Indeed, the population varies from 9,500 inhabitants in the winter to 35,000 during summer time.

The challenge

As early as 2011, a study on the reorganisation of the touristic offer of the Communauté was launched in partnership with the local and regional authorities, as well as local museums, especially on the question of the integration new technologies to promote it.

2014 is the year of the 70th anniversary of D-Day landings in Normandy. This milestone is seen as the last significant celebration of June 6, 1944, because surviving veterans are ever fewer. Moreover, the historical monuments deteriorate with time and weather conditions. It is especially the case of the Mulberry Harbour of Arromanches, damaged by waves and storms.

The Communauté needed to continue to maintain tourists’ interest after 2014 and to preserve the historical heritage.

The satellite solution

ICT was quickly considered as offering viable solutions to support these objectives. Moreover, in 2012, the French Ministry for Culture and Communication launched the call for projects “Innovative digital services in culture”. This helped finance the development of Arromanches 1944, a mobile application that combines augmented reality, 3D and GPS to promote the sites. The project was submitted by the Communauté and TES,  the local IT cluster.

The app is based on a geolocalised itinerary connecting Juno Beach to Arromanches harbour, via Gold Beach. On their smartphone or tablet, tourists can witness under their eyes a reconstitution of D-Day landing right where it took place, depending on their location. Films, sounds and visual effects are combined to revive the history of the region as well as Arromanches harbour like it used to be at the time.

The results

Arromanches 1944 was launched at the end of 2013, and has already won the United Nations World Tourism Organisation Ulysses Prize for Innovation in Enterprises, rewarding Biplan, the agency which developed the app. An important communication campaign is planned this year for the D-Day 70th anniversary celebrations. Five million visitors are expected in the whole Normandy region. 

Arromanches 1944 is an innovative tool to discover and preserve the historical heritage of D-Day landings in Normandy.” Jean-Louis de Mourgues, President.