An augmented reality project is promising to give tourists to southern Tasmania a spectacle — the sight of a Tasmanian tiger loping out of the bush.
The technology will allow anyone with a smartphone and the app to see the show at Russell Falls in Mount Field, with the potential in the near future — some predict — to use AR glasses or "wearables" to immerse you in the surrounds with the tiger.
Brighton, Southern Midlands and Derwent Valley councils are funding a $100,000 project to tell stories in their regions using augmented reality Bluetooth units called beacons that will initially send out the text, videos and pictures to phones and tablets that are loaded with the app.
Tasmanian company Handbuilt Creative is providing the know-how, content and the beacons.
The company's David Shering said augmented reality was the next big thing, after the smartphone and the internet.
He said augmented reality had been around quite a few years but there was a second generation coming, driven by the big manufacturers.
"We are definitely on the trajectory for wearables, something like the spectacles I am wearing," he said.
"Science fiction is becoming reality now. Wearing a set of wearables, you will have a full peripheral vision and full sight through, and the whole world will appear to be made up in augmented reality."
So why bother travelling to southern Tasmania if you can view something similar from your own room?
"There's nothing that will replace the smells and sounds and so forth. You just can't do that. I have a degree in zoology and believe in the natural world," he said.
"From my perspective, [I want to use] technology to get more and more people to actually explore those areas they wouldn't necessarily go to.
"If you are fly fishing in the lakes, you can use the technology to get you into those areas.
"If we can use technology … to let people experience some of these stunning locations we have, and these amazing stories that we have down here, that's what technology should be used for.
"It's not a gimmick, it's got to be a way of augmenting an existing experience and getting value that way.
"[With this project] we are able to place three-dimensional objects and superimpose them back into the real world.
"We can put the thylacine back into the rainforests, so visitors to that experience can have an additional experience to that by seeing the thylacine walking around [on their phone]."
Southern councils trialling augmented reality
Destination Southern Tasmania, a peak tourism body for Tasmania's southern region, is spruiking the project, paid for by the councils and with some State Government money.
The body's head, Melinda Anderson, said the small beacons would be placed at sites where the council wanted to improve a visitor's experience.
"It can be text, it could be photos, it could be video, or augmented reality where what you see is augmented, or 360-degree video or panorama," she said.
"Imagine walking through Oatlands, and then being told about the buildings and what are the stories behind them.
"All of a sudden you can see the stories, see old footage, or maybe be introduced to a character that used to live there."
She said councils were working on the stories that would be told.
"I've been blown away by some of the visuals I have seen, such as whales jumping out … or lions appearing right by my side, and I want to pat them," she said.
"Things we have played with around include 'could a thylacine appear from somewhere?'
"Or it could be a recreation of a building, [from] a ruin site; or something that has been renovated, potentially we could see what that looked like, or show its insides."
Ms Anderson said she hoped the project would go statewide, promising to enhance the visitor experience at existing sites without the need for new, expensive infrastructure spending.