The National Memorial Arboretum, in Staffordshire, has launched a new augmented reality experience, ARboretum, for the Easter school holidays through to June.

Pre-booked visitors to the 150-acre garden and woodland site can download a free app on their smartphone (Apple or Android), allowing them to interact with a cast of colourful characters as they discover memorials connected with the emergency services and other organisations that have been involved in the pandemic response.

Blu, Kit and Sam, a trio of new characters that were inspired by designs created by a young artist, help visitors on their journey and bring the stories behind the Arboretum to life. This diverse group of characters with distinct personalities facilitates a series of fun activities designed to allow families to learn about Remembrance, teamwork and reflection. At each of the eight locations around the Arboretum, an augmented reality character will appear, assist with the delivery of an activity and help people learn about some of the incredible organisations that have been working in our communities and serving our country throughout the pandemic.

This innovative experience is part of a new programme of activities to celebrate Our Everyday Heroes in the emergency services and other organisations that routinely make an invaluable contribution to national life. Covid-19 has presented a crisis on a scale not seen since the Second World War and Our Everyday Heroes have risen to the challenge and served valiantly in our time of greatest need.

ARboretum was developed by local virtual and augmented reality experience experts at Fennec Labs, based in Stafford. It is available for download for free from the Apple App Store and Google Play Store. This new free experience is designed for visitors aged seven and over when accompanied by an adult and will be available until at least June 2021.

The National Memorial Arboretum, in Staffordshire, has been granted Good to Go status by VisitEngland, signifying compliance with government and industry best practice. It remains open only to pre-booked visitors and people visiting the Arboretum must follow the latest government guidance relating to travel and social distancing. Anyone advised to self-isolate or shield should not visit the site at this time. Further information to help plan a visit and instructions on how to book can be found on the Arboretum’s website: www.thenma.org.uk/visit-us/plan-your-visit/covid-secure

Chris Ansell, Head of Participation and Learning at the National Memorial Arboretum, said: “Our new free family activity uses augmented reality technology to provide a fun, interactive experience that helps them engage with incredible stories of service and sacrifice. Our Everday Heroes in the NHS, emergency services, Armed Forces and countless other organisations have been essential to the UK’s pandemic response, with many individuals putting their lives at risk in the service of others.”

Ben Woodford, Co-Founder and Lead Developer at Fennec Labs, said: "Augmented Reality opens up so many possibilities for heritage sites, it's a fantastic way to engage a younger audience without having to make modifications to physical spaces. We're thrilled that the Arboretum chose a local studio such as ourselves, who understand the significance of the Arboretum and the role it plays"

You can download ARboretum on Apple App Store and Google Play Store now