VISITORS to Inverness will be able to enjoy a close encounter with Nessie, or take a peek into the town jail at the time of the Highland clearances thanks to a trailblazing project using cutting-edge technology.
In what is being claimed a first for the UK, a digital trail using augmented reality will be launched this spring, bringing the city’s legends and landmarks to life.
The project, HighlandAR–Legends, is being led by Highland Council which has teamed up with city games and app developer DeuXality.
People will be able to download a free app on to their smartphones or tablets, enabling them to access a range of animated graphics and text when they point their devices at a series of strategically-placed artworks around the city centre.
The technology is similar to that used for the Pokemon Go game craze.
It could also generate revenue for the cash-strapped council.
The project – initially revealed by the Inverness Courier – has been under development for more than year.
But business and civic representatives have been given a sneak preview and invited to give their feedback.
The council’s communication and resilience manager Ruth Cleland said the venture was attracting interest even before being launched.
""It is a first for the UK," she said. "There are digital trails in cities elsewhere but none use augmented reality as far as we know.
"Other places across the Highlands are interested as well as the islands."
Set to be launched in April, it will feature seven pieces of artwork designed by a local artist and an Inverness youngster.
Subjects include Inverness Castle; 17th century Highland prophet the Brahan Seer; the market fire of 1889; prisoners in the tower and unicorns and fairies.
The development costs amount to less than £15,000 using money from the Inverness Common Good Fund.
But it could bring an economic boost to the council through online advertising plus spin-off merchanise such as coasters.
The technology could also be adapted for use at other visitor attractions under the branding HighlandAR.
Darroch McNaught, founder of DeuXality, has enjoyed the challenge of the project.
"It has been a labour of love," said Mr McNaught who trained as an animator at Abertay University.
"The interesting thing about augmented reality is that anything you can conceive can be delivered."
Previously, he worked with Inverness Museum and Art Gallery to create an augmented reality experience for an exhibition to mark the national Festival of Architecture.
Council graphic designer Kirsty Forster believes the trail will bring more visitors to Inverness and also provide local people with a new experience.
"It will perhaps help them see areas of the city, they may not have seen before," she said.
"It will take them along a route and add a bit of fun."