AR experiencesAR gamesRetail & E-Commerce

Darabase Brings AR Bowling to Fill Empty Mall Units

How Darabase turned an empty storefront into an AR bowling alley.


Shopping malls are struggling. You can blame COVID-19, but before that, it was because of online orders, and before that, it was because of something else. Even most busy malls in urban centers have an occasional empty storefront. For property management, that means lost revenue and lost attraction to the whole building.

If you’re a regular reader of ARPost, when you read “property management” you might have thought of Darabase. The UK company is one of the only AR outfits in the world that works with physical property owners instead of working around, over, or in spite of them. And the company came up with a pretty unique solution for one shopping center in Brighton.

Darabase and Bewonder* in abrdn’s Churchill Square

To be clear, Churchill Square, the current home of this Darabase project, is not a struggling mall. But, as we said in the introduction, even thriving malls can have non-revenue earning storefronts whether because of an occasional lapse in occupancy, renovation, things come up.

“Creating experiences beyond shopping is increasingly important across our assets,” Angus Stenhouse said in a release. Stenhouse is the Senior Asset Manager at abrdn – the firm that owns Churchill Square. “With augmented reality the opportunities are endless, allowing us to enliven a quiet area and provide entertainment whilst driving footfall and engagement.”

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Darabase had a ball designing the experience after being brought in by creative consultancy group Bewonder*, who handled creative theming, artwork, and physical assets.

“We are delighted to be working with Bewonder and Churchill Square blending the physical and digital to create this world-first AR bowling experience,” Darabase CEO Dominic Collins said in the release. “We are looking forward to seeing how visitors engage with the game, high score screens, and competition to add an extra dimension to their visit to Brighton.”

An AR Bowling Alley Comes to Brighton

Mall visitors pass a vacant storefront. Rather than seeing an empty mall unit or a sign apologizing for renovation or promising a new location, visitors see what appears to be a retro bowling alley. Nearby, a QR code launches a web-based, geo-locked AR experience that can be played in the mall without an app.

The experience: a mobile-based version of virtual ten-pin bowling called “Up Your Alley.” High-scoring players can enter their names on monitors in the physical storefront just like they might at a real physical bowling alley. They may also win gift cards for other stores at the mall.

Darabase Up Your Alley AR Bowling Game retail experience

Not only is the game an amusing way to drive engagement with unoccupied store fronts, it helps to bring the mall back as a social rather than a strictly commercial venue. Of course, offering financial incentives to play means that other stores in the building can benefit from the engagement based in a non-revenue earning space.

“Experiences remain essential to the future of our spaces. Blending our physical and digital worlds allows us to create closer, more efficient human customer experiences,” Bewonder*’s Kaye Walker said. “With augmented reality we have the ability to create an immersive space with a personalized digital layer creating endless possibilities that drive footfall.”

Is There a Future AR Bowling Alley Near You?

This experience is currently only available in one storefront of one shopping center. However, in an email to ARPost, Darabase co-founder, David Bomphrey, called the experience “a great case study of what can be done in any vacant retail footprint to ensure that customers continue to be engaged and want to spend time in the space.”

So, who knows, an experience like this could be coming to a storefront near you.

Jon Jaehnig
the authorJon Jaehnig
Jon Jaehnig is a freelance journalist with special interest in emerging technologies. Jon has a degree in Scientific and Technical Communication from Michigan Technological University and lives in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. If you have a story suggestion for Jon, you may contact him here.