25th September 2019

ATS is 25 this year, founder Mike Howie is in the Q&A hot seat!

ATS Heritage is celebrating its 25th birthday in November this year. With the advances in technology and the changing face of how to deliver the best visitor experience, we interviewed founder and MD, Mike Howie to gain his insight into the future of our sector.

What were your motivations for setting up ATS Heritage 25 years ago?

After 20 years as an Officer in the Royal Navy, I decided I wanted a complete change. I had a bit of a reputation as an Engineer with a creative streak and initially worked as a Programme Manager whilst looking for opportunities in the cultural and heritage sector. After designing several successful products, I came up with idea of building rugged Multimedia Guides. This concept took off rather quickly and it transformed us from a small company to one that is much more widely known, if you call 12 years doing something quickly.

One of the things I learnt from my time in the Royal Navy was the importance of creating a talented team of individuals who can work together. Our onsite team of producers, editors, designers and programmers work continually to innovate and with every new client look for opportunities to be even more creative than the previous project. Our Ops team work hard to make sure our Client receives the first class support they deserve.

What do you consider ATS’s greatest achievements?

I am a little biased, but we have some great clients who have been very loyal and took a risk on a small company with great ambitions. Needless to say, they were delighted with the results. Balmoral Castle, the Great Hall at Gainsborough, The National Portrait Gallery, Bletchley Park and Osterley Park spring to mind as early adopters.

Our immersive and award winning tour for English Heritage at Eltham Palace was great fun to produce and really stretched us by filming a period introduction film. Winning the tender for St Paul’s Cathedral was also a massive opportunity to build a really great multimedia tour (particularly when we had the opportunity to fly a drone inside the dome).

Since then we have had the great honour of working on all the Royal Collection Trust sites as well as Westminster Abbey, with all the challenges of connecting so many visitors with the best experience possible.

Finally, I am particularly proud of us building a wide range of Multimedia products such as the Focus and its associated systems from scratch, and designing and assembling them in the UK – I will forever enjoy being an engineer!

Where do you see the future of multimedia and audio guides?

It is still very exciting to see the way the sector is going. Expectations in terms of interpretation are certainly rising and the UK is well ahead of many other countries. Audio guides are still very important but elements of gaming, role playing, AR, VR, rich 3D content and other interactive techniques make the multimedia guide a very useful piece of technology to deliver the very best visitor experience. Of course, apps are always being considered, and we do develop them, but people are still wary of downloading large apps, therefore taking a device for the duration of their visit still appears to be the preferred approach.

For ATS, over the coming months and years, we are concentrating on building our product range and cutting edge Workspace CMS that will allow more clients to ‘get creative’!

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