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Augmented Reality is one of the coolest technologies that is being adopted in a really big way at many museums across the world. This technology is revolutionizing museum experiences and is here to stay. It is reshaping the way we experience and appreciate the wonderful treasures our museums have to offer. These AR enabled museums are providing visitors with wonderful memories of the immersive and interactive experiences. Let us look at five ways by which augmented reality is enhancing the quality of museum visits.

The first is Enhanced Interactivity. Many traditional museums have become more interactive with the use of AR enabled devices such as smartphones and tablets. A visitor is now able to view an exhibit using their smartphone and what they view is dramatically enhanced by the overlay of specially created digital content such as animation, 3D models coupled with text and audio information. The museum visitor’s experience is enhanced with the interactive content that has been developed using augmented reality. This interactive engagement enhances learning and a greater appreciation of the special features of the exhibit. The visitor is able to view a 3D model of the exhibit from all angles, obtain an X-ray view of the internal structure or arrangements, and animation that is overlaid to identify the key features or components of the artifact. This information is available without the need to rely on museum guides, which are typically quite expensive for the common man. The AR application can act as your personalized museum guide, alerting you to important and interesting information on the various exhibits in the museum. Since the number of knowledgeable guides is decreasing, museums must resort to developing virtual guides to share interesting information and insight about the various artifacts. This is a beautiful example of how technology can help enhance a museum visit.

The Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, D.C. offers an AR application called “Renwick Gallery WONDER 360. This application enables visitors to view digital content that has been overlaid onto physical exhibits, and helps to provide interesting insights that went into the artistic process behind the works of art exhibited there. In the British Museum in London, the Museum of the World AR experience is helping visitors to explore artifacts in greater depth using augmented reality. Visitors can just point their devices at exhibits, which then unlocks content to learn about it and have an interactive experience with such ancient objects.

The second is about personalized experiences. AR is now being used to tailor a visitor experience based on their interests and preferences. AR can help to customize what the visitor wishes to experience in a museum. For example, if a visitor wishes to only view the Egyptian collections in a museum, the application can be designed to guide visitors to that specific section of the museum and deliver the interactive experience for that. It can also guide a visitor to the various exhibits in a museum that offer greater insight into Egyptian art, culture and history. This would help them maximize their available time for the experiences they wish to have. Museum tours can be designed by visitors making a choice on how much time they have and determining the best museum tour to cover within that time. Visitors can determine this beforehand, obtain a map of the tour, choose a convenient time and preview their visit before stepping foot into the museum.

Many museums have begun the effort to include augmented reality experience centers. The Louvre Museum in Paris has introduced an AR-based app that provides its visitors personalized tours. The application helps visitors select their interests. The app then guides them to specific works of art and offers content and insight into their chosen area of interest. The National Museum of Singapore has an AR-enhanced exhibit called “Story of the Forest” which immerses visitors in a virtual rainforest, bringing the forest to life with animated creatures. This helps the visitors obtain an interactive learning experience about the rainforest ecosystem.

The third is about historical and artistic context. There is often a gap identified between a historical artifact and its original context. Most visitors are unaware of the background and conditions that existed when the painting, sculpture etc. was created and how it would have appeared when it was completed. Augmented reality in museums helps to reconstruct and present that with realistic overlays and provides more information to the visitor that helps them gain a better understanding and appreciation of the artifact they are viewing. For example, AR helps visitors experience and explore the ruins of the Acropolis in its original condition with expertly developed overlays. These overlays are created with the input from historians, archaeologists and museum experts. AR can also provide a visualization of the artistic process. It will help a visitor obtain an enhanced understanding with a step-by-step animated process of how a painting was created many centuries ago. At the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, visitors can use the AR app that allows them to explore Rembrandt’s painting, The Night Watch, to discover the details, layers and techniques employed by the famous artist.

The fourth is about accessibility and inclusivity. AR is helping museums become more accessible and inclusive. Museums attract visitors from all parts of a country and even the world. They may be educated in another language and unable to read the descriptions found in traditional museums. This issue is eliminated with an AR app that is able to present information in the language of their choice along with audio visual aids. Visually impaired visitors can be provided with tactile and audio descriptions as they approach an exhibit. This feature can be found at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto, Canada. One can also use an AR app at the Australian Museum in Sydney that offers information to visitors in multiple languages. These apps offer a pleasant and enhanced AR museum experience for their visitors.

The final one is about gamification and engagement. AR helps to transform the traditional museum experience and deliver a highly interactive, engaging and entertaining experience. These include designing exhibits incorporating AR to make them interactive through the integration of gamification elements. Puzzles, challenges, scavenger hunts and quizzes are sought after particularly, by younger and mature audiences alike. Such gamifying experiences can also be rewarding. Visitors can accumulate points and badges that they can share with their friends and community. They can also be exchanged for benefits within the museum such as memorabilia. Such AR based approaches encourage visitors to explore, learn and enjoy more easily. The engagement and learning derived often last a lifetime. In fact, the Museum of London has an app that enables visitors to experience a time travel adventure called the Beasts of London. This app allows visitors to see virtually the animals and characters in the various time periods in London’s history. The Natural History Museum in Los Angeles has created the Spider Pavilion, an AR powered app that allows visitors to use AR devices to interact with virtual spiders. This app is helping kids and adults gain a better understanding of creatures they are typically scared about. This experience helps them remove certain fears and enables them to treat these wonderful creatures with more care and respect.

These advancements in augmented reality applications in museums are gradually transforming the way people experience museums today. They are also helping to educate today’s kids to become better citizens of tomorrow with an AR museum experience. At Fusion VR, we are constantly making efforts to maximize the adoption of virtual reality and augmented reality technologies in museums. Learn more about our projects and pioneering contributions by visiting our Museums and Corporate Experiences Centers webpage.