It is quite self-evident that museums undertake a huge responsibility to preserve the most valuable and revered artifacts of human evolution, history, culture, and knowledge. It is an undeniable fact that museums deliver these treasures for the benefit of the current and all generations to come. Most museums today fall under the category of Traditional museums which have primarily collected, curated and preserved many valuable artifacts for decades. Without their help, these would have been lost forever. Generally, their role has been primarily seen as custodians of these treasures. Many decades ago, it was a privilege for many to just walk through the halls of these museums and witness the glorious artifacts. But this situation is changing rapidly in front of our eyes. We are entering the era of Museum 2.0 and the focus is shifting from viewing displays to enriching the visitor experience.
The tremendous growth of digital technologies and its applications in museums is the main driver behind the transition to Museum 2.0. Technology has leveled the playing field and democratized digital access and experiences to vast populations across the globe. The humble smartphone has become the device of choice for many who did not have this kind of access before. There is a huge suite of technologies that are making this reality happen. Virtual reality is one of the key technologies that is revolutionizing museum experiences and making it interactive, immersive and simply memorable. Museum 2.0 leverages these digital interactive technologies in museums to increase visitor engagement and allow them to even participate in the creation process and share their experiences using digital devices. This is raising the awareness of museums and is effectively taking the national treasures to the masses.
Virtual Reality is one the coolest technologies that has captured everyone’s attention in the past decade. It became very popular with the gaming community as it provided exciting and almost real life experiences with the virtual reality headsets. The power of virtual reality was quickly recognized for deployment in several areas such as education, industry and entertainment. For the uninitiated, VR is experienced using a VR Headset which completely covers the users eyes, cuts them off from their surrounding reality and ushers them into a digitally created virtual environment once they open their eyes. This virtual environment can be viewed in all directions and enables the user to navigate as they do in real life. Very soon the user begins to accept this as the new reality and forget about the physical world surrounding them. This magical experience created by VR technology is immensely useful to develop a wide range of scenarios and experiences that was never possible before.
Using Virtual Reality , we can bring to life many aspects of our cherished history and culture within a VR experience center at a traditional museum. It will enable visitors to appreciate and enjoy the wonders of this world without moving from their own spaces. Many of the constraints that prevent people from enjoying them in the real world can be delivered using VR technology.
The first example of how VR is revolutionizing the museum experience can be found in the area of immersive exhibits. These exhibits are a way to encapsulate the visitor in an environment that existed once upon a time and provide an experience that people in that era enjoyed. Many of you may have seen the recent movie Ponniyin Selvan which recreated a series of events in the Chola empire as depicted in the eponymous novel by Kalki. Many would have wondered how the landscape, the people, their customs and the cities looked then and also wondered what kind of experience it would be if they walked through the Chola kingdom. In other words, a kind of time travel.
Virtual reality gives us the ability to obtain a time travel experience and immerse ourselves in a digitally recreated environment that feels almost real. The landscape, its structures can be modeled to hyper realistic levels with avatars resembling the people of that era. These avatars can be interactive and engage with the visitor for a more realistic experience. The visitor can explore in detail in ways that are not practically possible in the real world. Consider the experience of climbing up the Thanjavur Big Temple and get a birds eye view of the landscape and explore the construction in greater detail. In the virtual world, we can explore anything from all angles as well as look inside something in a virtual x-ray fashion. The quality and depth of a visitor experience can be created using virtual reality.
Specially constructed cubicles can be established at a VR Experience center in the museum to deliver the time travel experience described above. As much as we like to travel into the past, some of us may be interested in seeing how the future might look. This is again possible with the creation of futuristic virtual spaces that render a creative look of the future. It will be one that is navigable and allows the visitor to obtain a fully immersive experience. It could be very interesting to the youngsters to explore the possibilities of how their communities would be in their future. These are the kinds of experiences that museums must create to ensure that the visitor’s experience is more memorable.
There are many of us who would like to explore all the great museums around the world. There are also many private museums that display objects of current interest. These are accessible to only a tiny minority of the global population. It may be quite expensive to visit these places and the museums and reduce the quality of our appreciation to what we see in pictures or on a video. Virtual reality technology now enables you to walk through the corridors and collection rooms of these museums from the comfort of your room. Welcome to the world of virtual museums. The virtual museum could be a walkthrough of an existing museum like the Louvre or the Salar Jung Museum. A visitor would be able to amble just like if you were physically there. The visitor can get close to any exhibit as they are digital and viewed in greater detail. This is useful for students and researchers who can explore in greater depth and for unlimited time. This can be done anytime of the day or night. People with disabilities and those who just cannot travel or afford the expense can enjoy the offerings of a museum virtually. The virtual reality walkthrough is designed to give the visitor a highly realistic experience. Plus, in the case of the virtual museum, our legs don’t get tired. The COVID-19 pandemic brought out the necessity of virtual museums and creating virtual reality experience for people who were unable to leave their home.
There is a perceptible change in the museums and corporate experience center scene today. The players in this sector are asking for exhibits and experiences based on augmented reality and virtual reality. They are also expressing their desire to engage visitors and deliver more interactive VR museum experiences. The technology is readily available and supported by a talent pool that can deliver high quality solutions to match their requirements. Fusion VR is one of the few solution providers with an enviable track record of delivering interactive and engaging museum exhibits to clients in the private and public sectors. We have more than a decade of experience in supporting museum projects with our innovative and cost effective solutions. Our Museums and Corporate Experience Centre website provides additional information on our capabilities and the projects we have executed.
The future of virtual reality is bright and it will continue to revolutionize the museum experiences. The ultimate beneficiary is the common museum visitor who will enjoy as well enrich themselves with the wealth of information that is available in our museums.