Couple wearing Harry and Meghan Markle masks

The Royal Wedding: tradition meets tech

Image credit: Reuters/Marko Djurica

At this weekend’s much-anticipated royal wedding, facial recognition, augmented reality (AR) and police tech will come together to deliver a safe, smooth and fun spectacle for visitors and viewers.

Prince Harry of Wales and Meghan Markle, the American actor best known for starring in legal drama Suits, will tie the knot on Saturday at St George’s Chapel, Windsor, in an event that will be watched the world over.

While royal weddings are inherently traditional, broadcasters and other organisations are turning to the newest technology to help the event run smoothly and engage viewers.

Facial recognition

Lesser duke or television villain? Former Spice Girl or viscountess? Sky News will be offering a service (“Royal Wedding: Who’s Who Live”) to help viewers identify celebrity guests as they arrive.

The function, which is being offered in partnership with Amazon Web Services, will provide captions and graphics to accompany the most high-profile guests, informing viewers of their name, relationship with the couple and additional facts.

Who’s Who uses Rekognition, a cloud-based machine learning tool based on deep learning technology developed by Amazon engineers. Deep learning is an approach to machine learning in which information is processed through a succession of ‘layers’; it is used frequently for object recognition and natural language processing. This use of facial recognition is a world first.

There are expected to be approximately 600 people in the congregation, along with 2640 members of public who have been given tickets to watch from outside the church.

Unlike his older brother, Prince William, Prince Harry is not expected to become king so can enjoy a less formal wedding. As his wedding to Markle is a private event, heads of state, politicians and ambassadors have not been invited and a full guest list has not been published. However, viewers should look out for likely guests, including Markle’s co-stars from Suits, actor Priyanka Chopra, athlete Serena Williams, singers Mel B, Ed Sheeran and Elton John, as well as celebrity couples David and Victoria Beckham, and Amal and George Clooney.

Augmented reality

Meanwhile, ABC News is embracing AR to bring a touch of royal magic down under. It is offering a feature on its app, “The Royal Wedding AR Experience”, which can transport users to thoroughly royal scenes. iOS users pointing their devices at flat, horizontal surfaces can admire 3D models of a royal carriage and a uniformed Queen’s Guard in AR.

Screencap from royal wedding AR app

ABC News

Image credit: ABC News

Users can adjust the scale of the virtual model, and take pictures and videos of themselves with the digital settings and props.

Smart speakers

Google will be celebrating the wedding by offering fun royal-related facts through its smart speaker: the Google Home Assistant.

The smart speaker will be serving up ten hidden answers to royal questions such as “How can I be a princess?”, “Teach me royal etiquette” or “Give me a fact about royal weddings.”

Security technology

Thames Valley Police has described the royal wedding as “one of the largest operations the force has ever policed”, and has been gradually stepping up security in the area in preparation for the big event. In additional to conventional monitoring approaches using CCTV and the Police Air Service, police will also be using automatic number plate recognition technology to keep the area safe for the couple, their guests, and thousands of well-wishers.

Drones have been banned by the Civil Aviation Authority from flying over the area during the event amid concerns that a rush of low-flying unmanned vehicles could collide, fall out of the sky and cause chaos in Windsor. Meanwhile, phones and cameras have been completely barred from the ceremony and reception in order to minimise disruption.

Live broadcasting

Sky is planning to broadcast the event live in ultra-high definition (UHD), the first time any royal event has been covered in such detail. To make this ambitious broadcast possible, the broadcaster will be using 51 cameras, 27km of cables and 160 technical staff placed around St George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle and in the centre of the town.

In the US, the royal wedding will be broadcast live in US cinemas. Not everyone will be able to enjoy the details of the wedding; Vladimir Putin has reportedly banned the Russian media from broadcasting the event.

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