LONDON, ONT. -- A new campaign using Augmented Reality (AR) is hoping to bring people to Downtown London and other areas across the region to experience it, while increasing foot traffic for local businesses in a safe way.

TechAlliance of Southwestern Ontario has teamed up with other municipalities and business organizations to tackle one of the side effects of COVID-19 and help struggling businesses.

“There really is no foot traffic on streets of Richmond, not like there used to be,” says Lisa Ferguson, owner of Hangar 9.

The Richmond Row shop is just steps from the AR location at Richmond Street and Central Avenue and hopes to benefit from the increased traffic.

The ‘most local time of the year’ campaign utilizes London’s EXAR Studios' AR experience to entice people to experience a festive Augmented Reality through the company's Engage App.

Exar Studios’ Shishir ’S’ Pande says it's a question of “How can we bring people to these main streets, in a safe and friendly way.”

After you download the app, you can download adventures geared to where you live, and the app will give you directions to where you can interact with the AR experience.

Pande says the first adventure, which released Thursday, is Holiday themed, “The first interactive experience is a multicultural experience showcasing Hanukkah, Diwali and Christmas.”

The hope is that when people come downtown to see the AR experience, they will walk along the storefronts and discover a local store, either by visiting them in person or going to their website when they return home, as many shops - like Hangar 9 - have expanded to online sales and Ferguson says even virtual shopping is now available.

“We also do virtual selling, so through Zoom and through Facebook we do virtual calls, if you feel comfortable you are able to come in, certainly our doors are open and you are more than welcome to come in.”

Pande says implementing AR can get people to the area, which can spill over into more eyes on businesses.

“We need to start get innovative about how we’re connecting with people, and this augmented reality app has the potential to tell these local stories in a way that has never been seen before.”

Pande says there is another experience on the way in a couple of weeks, so people will be able to visit multiple times over the holidays for different experiences.

“We’re doing a very fun and interactive game-like experience coming up, I don’t want to give away too much.”

That experience will encourage participants to walk to other locations to further the story. The AR experience can also be found in the St. Thomas, Strathroy, Bayfield and Bluewater regions.

When you download the app, it will give you directions to the nearest experience.