ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – The 49th Balloon Fiesta may be postponed this year, but a new app still wants to bring the magic of Fiesta to New Mexicans and beyond. The phone app uses augmented reality technology to experience hot air balloons wherever you are. After Balloon Fiesta’s postponement because of COVID-19, local developers quickly came up with ways to still experience the mass ascension.
“It’s basically designed to fill in that void that all New Mexicans are feeling right now,” said Richard Farmer, co-founder of Reality Force. “We started around June and were looking to bring some projects to New Mexico.”
Reality Force is the augmented reality brainchild of Farmer and Keagan Karnes. Using a smartphone, you can see balloons in flight and even take photos as if you’re there on the field.
“You can go experience your own balloon fest outside, virtually,” said Farmer. “When you open up the app, you’ll be able to launch your own custom balloon. It’ll join an armada of balloons above and from there, you’ll be able to take pictures of your friends and share them on social media.”
Users can also donate to the Balloon Museum through the app to keep them going during this time. Farmer says it’s a good way to relive Fiesta for those outside of New Mexico who planned to travel here.
“You can do it anywhere but it works best outside in an environment like this where you can get the full effect,” said Farmer. “It’s the right place, right time. It’s one more way that technology can be used as a tool to help.”
Karnes says the postponement is a hit to our community. However, he says the app is one way to bring back the spirit, even for a moment.
“We hope that it’s a huge boost to morale, it’s a symbolic gesture that keeps people excited about ballooning in Albuquerque,” said Karnes. “It’s powerful technology that is just growing and growing.”
Augmented reality technology or “AR” is still in its early stages, but Reality Force says they’re ready to explore. While you may be able to even take a virtual balloon ride in the future, they hope to use the app to highlight everything that’s great about New Mexico culture and tourism, from the food to the art to the outdoors.
“This is the first of many experiences that Reality Force is going to be designing,” said Karnes. “We think it’s going to go outside of New Mexico. We’re focusing our attention here, but we want the world to see what we have to offer.”
The app officially launches on Saturday, Oct. 3. That would’ve been the start of the 49th Balloon Fiesta.