Brum AR – An Augmented Reality App for Birmingham

01 April 2024

1 April

The Context

When I started as City Curator last year, I met with lots of different organisations and I was struck by the number of people that had plans for Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality interventions.

Personally, I think the use of both technologies is very exciting and that AR interventions could really be game-changing for tourists discovering Birmingham for the first time. It is equally game-changing for local people looking to dive into the city’s heritage or discover what is on their doorsteps in a fun and engaging way. There is already some interesting work being done in this space from a tourism perspective. Take a look at this example from Singapore Tourism Board:

image 1 Brum AR - An Augmented Reality App for Birmingham

The organisation that drew my attention to this use of AR technology in a tourism context was BOM (Birmingham Open Media)- an immersive arts organisation in Southside District who are engaging and empowering communities through innovation with immersive technology.

Singapore Tourism Board are using Google Spatial AR to deliver their project, a technology that BOM were already in the early stages of testing for an immersive experience they were working on. I’m told that this technology isn’t widely adopted yet but clearly it has a great deal of potential and I found myself thinking what an extraordinary opportunity Birmingham had to get ahead of the curve and embrace this technology with homegrown talent like BOM leading the charge.

Rather than seeing hundreds of separate AR applications pop-up around the city, all potentially having a limited impact and a limited lifespan, wouldn’t it be fantastic to have a single app for the city that would allow partners to bring their ideas to life in a more cost-effective way, whilst also gaining access to an existing audience for AR tools?

Plus, as a local resident, wouldn’t it be better to be able to download just one app? I can’t be the only one that hates the growing number of apps I have used just a handful of times, taking up space on my phone.

Brum AR

One of the organisations I’d talked to in those early days was Southside BID. They had an AR app idea and were already in discussion with BOM and Jez Collins from Birmingham Music Archive about a music-themed AR intervention. BOM were beginning to understand the possibilities and limitations of Google Spatial AR and I remember a real buzz in the air when we first met together and agreed to collaborate on a bigger project idea that would drive engagement and footfall across the city centre.

BOM, for those of you who might not be familiar with the organisation, is a CIC (Community Interest Company). They are an experienced in-house team of developers and engagement producers already innovating with virtual and augmented reality (VR/AR), games, and other interactive content to create immersive experiences with strong social purpose. The perfect organisation to lead on a project like this!

So, together we asked ourselves what could an AR mobile application for the city look like? We wanted the endless possibilities of immersive technology to enable residents and tourists alike to experience a journey of their choosing with a tool that blends the city’s rich history, vibrant culture, and progressive spirit.

Fundamentally, this was the thinking behind Brum AR, an app by BOM (Birmingham Open Media).

Southside BID had successfully secured some initial funding to develop an AR app idea with BOM, so next we looked to bring together a consortium of partners who could help lever the initial prototyping funding and expand the app’s development.

We all shared the vision for an ambitious new app for the city and we began engaging other partners to make the magic happen. The project team was joined by Colmore BID, with Jewellery Quarter BID also pledging support. Then we were able to secure additional funding from the UK government for a prototype, via the UK Shared Prosperity Fund. Excitement was building!

The concept of a city-wide AR app with multiple thematic layers is an exciting and ambitious project. So, as a first step, BOM have been working to build the prototype with a single theme. Birmingham has such a rich musical heritage that music felt like the perfect fit. We commissioned Jez Collins of Birmingham Music Archive to undertake the music research and develop the content, and BOM began work on the project.

Can you help?

BOM are making amazing progress on the project and have just launched a call-out for beta testers, so if you want to help shape this exciting concept then read on:

We need beta testers for this exciting new app. As a beta tester, we want you to go out into the city centre, use the app and engage with the exciting content. There will be a short questionnaire to fill out once you have tested the app, to help us understand what works well, what needs tweaking and what you want to see in future iterations.

The beta testing window is open now and will close on Friday 26th April.

The device requirements:

This beta testing window is for Android devices only. The minimum software requirement i Android 8.0 (Oreo), as the app requires ARCore and Geospatial API support.

The process:

  1. Sign up using the form below, providing your Google Play email account.
  2. Via the Google Play linked email account you will be invited to download the beta app.
  3. Use the app and test its capabilities in the city centre.
  4. Fill out a feedback tester form to share your experiences.
  5. We will keep you informed on future developments of the app.

More about the app here from this short video clip:

Sign up form to understand who will be testing our app here: []

What’s next?

In May, after testing, BOM will launch the full layer of the music-themed prototype, which aligns with the 100 Days of Creativity. Then, if it’s well received and there is appetite from others, there will be potential to add further theme layers to Brum AR at a later date and realise the full scope of an augmented reality app for Birmingham.

If you’re thinking about developing an AR app and you share this vision of a one-stop-shop for AR experiences of this nature in Birmingham, then I’d certainly encourage you to have a chat with BOM about being part of Brum AR.


The prototype for Brum AR has been developed by BOM in collaboration with Southside BID, Colmore BID, Jez Collins at Birmingham Music Archive and myself with additional support from Jewellery Quarter BID.

This project is funded by the UK government through the UK Shared Prosperity Fund.

image Brum AR - An Augmented Reality App for Birmingham

The UK Shared Prosperity Fund is a central pillar of the UK government’s Levelling Up agenda and provides £2.6 billion of funding for local investment by March 2025. The Fund aims to improve pride in place and increase life chances across the UK investing in communities and place, supporting local business, and people and skills. For more information, visit