Reload Bar and Games is Australia's first augmented reality hospitality venue
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Reload Bar and Games is Australia's first augmented reality hospitality venue

Struggling to find a friend who's keen to head out for drinks tonight?

Don't stress. Just head to the Northbourne Avenue bar where you can now drink with virtual friends.

Reload Bar co-owner Ravi Sharma watches manager Hollie Lehmann attempt to catch a zombie with a beer glass in Australia's first augmented reality bar. The scene is photographed on a phone using the bar's app.

Reload Bar co-owner Ravi Sharma watches manager Hollie Lehmann attempt to catch a zombie with a beer glass in Australia's first augmented reality bar. The scene is photographed on a phone using the bar's app.Credit:Sitthixay Ditthavong

Reload Bar and Games is the first augmented reality bar in Australia - meaning you can point your phone at any number of the bar's "surfaces" and a holographic experience will pop up.

Point your phone at the actual bar and a miniature 3D version of Reload Bar itself pops up, complete with tiny pinball machines and people dancing to a DJ. You even have an avatar within the miniature bar and can walk around virtually talking to people.

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Reload Bar manager Hollie Lehmann and co-owner Jim Andrews kick back with a zombie in Australia's first augmented reality bar.

Reload Bar manager Hollie Lehmann and co-owner Jim Andrews kick back with a zombie in Australia's first augmented reality bar.Credit:Sitthixay Ditthavong

If you're on your own, point your phone at one of the walls and a zombie pops out to have a drink with you. Maybe not the ideal drinking partner, but he'd no doubt be happy to join you for a Bloody Mary.

Reload Bar owner Ravi Sharma said the bar's new augmented reality (AR) experience was the first of its kind in Australia.

"The world was introduced to augmented reality - the blending of the virtual and physical worlds - through Pokemon Go," Mr Sharma said.

"The world went crazy chasing on-screen monsters at real-world landmarks, but augmented reality has come a long way since then."

Point your phone at the bar and a miniature version of Reload Bar itself pops up.

Point your phone at the bar and a miniature version of Reload Bar itself pops up.Credit:Sitthixay Ditthavong

Mr Sharma said the augmented reality experience was enabled by the Reload app, built exclusively for the bar by spin-off company Reload Labs. He said the bar's suppliers were "fascinated" by the marketing opportunities made possible by AR technology.

"We now have the ability to build virtual product offers and unique branded experiences on behalf of our suppliers," he said.

Eventually phones will be exchanged for Microsoft Hololens glasses to enable the experience, bar owner Ravi Sharma said.

Eventually phones will be exchanged for Microsoft Hololens glasses to enable the experience, bar owner Ravi Sharma said.Credit:Sitthixay Ditthavong

"So it provides an incredible experience for people coming in to the bar but it's also a real commercial opportunity for us.

"We're already working with Canberra Zombie Walk to promote the event at the end of October. So if you see a poster in Civic or at the universities, download the Reload app and point your phone at it."

Reload Bar would eventually love to provide each person walking through the door with a set of Microsoft Hololens glasses, Mr Sharma said, which would mean a more immersive virtual experience. But at $4,000 a pop, that won't be happening anytime soon.

"Eventually the Hololens glasses will be worn like normal glasses and that'll just revolutionise areas like urban exploration, safety and rescue operations, and of course entertainment and shopping experiences," Mr Sharma said.

"Just picture walking through a shopping centre and offers are popping up in front of you.

"Or if you want to find your way somewhere, you communicate with your glasses and holographic footprints are placed right in front of you to show you exactly where to go."

The Reload Bar and Games augmented reality app is available on the Google Play store and currently awaiting iOS approval. The bar's augmented reality experience launches Friday 8 September 2017.

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Bree Element is the life and entertainment editor at The Canberra Times

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