How Are Cultural Institutions and the Recreational Sector Adopting Immersive Technologies?

Museums and galleries are no longer just a collection of artefacts.

Their role is not limited to house objects but to interpret them and initiate dialogues about them. With the digital transformation in the cultural sector, the collections have become a starting point for enhanced experiences beyond the conventional practice of seeing objects.

Museums and galleries are no longer just a collection of artefacts. Their role is not limited to house objects but to interpret them and initiate dialogues about them. With the digital transformation in the cultural sector, the collections have become a starting point for enhanced experiences beyond the conventional practice of seeing objects. Digitisation enables accessibility to culture and facilitates interaction. The process makes consumption of culture more tangible for individuals, often by allowing them in the process through co-creation.

The evolution of interpretation methods in culture sectors, from tour guides to audio guides, QR codes etc., has engaged visitors with novelty in practice. However, although the mentioned interpretation methods are widely practised, only innovative use of them can fascinate culture enthusiasts. Hereby, we will look at a few examples of implementing mixed-reality technologies to create novel experiences and enhance conventional experiences in the culture sector.

Since the Covid-19 pandemic started, many institutions were forced to close their doors. Later on, they had to continue with limited numbers to adapt to the global challenges. When closed doors prohibit visitors from seeing exhibitions in cultural institutions, immersive technologies could be just the right solution for bringing art and culture to visitors.

Publicising and making art accessible? London National Gallery, National Portrait Gallery, and Royal Academy of Arts collaborated to publicise 20 pieces of artwork, a collection of historical and contemporary paintings. The trail of the artworks in the streets of London starts at the National Gallery and ends at the Royal Academy. The trail features hotspots with unique QR codes where paintings can be revealed on personal devices. The corresponding app “Art of London AR Gallery” triggers QR codes installed on the city walls. A simple scan of the QR using the app not only reveals the painting on the visitor handheld device but also narrates it. This digitisation not only engages digital natives with culture at the very least but also could encourage them to visit cultural institutions more often.

Encourage visitors to return and fascinate them? Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle, Paris launched an AR experience that brings back extinct animals into space for visitors. The experience, ‘Revivre’ (To live again), is accessible through Microsoft HoloLense. In this context, non-existent species are revived and brought to visitors’ eyes through digitisation. From the educational perspective, digitalisation unravels additional channels to visualise and offer information about the evolution and extinction of species.

Re-conceptualise art and culture for different generations? Another implication of AR in cultural institutions is to transform conventional displays with trending contemporary practices. This process bridges historical pieces with contemporary practices. It facilitates a modern way of looking at historical objects and artworks by digitally adapting them to the present culture. For example, The Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto, introduced the ‘ReBlink’ exhibition between 2017 and 2018. Holding the app designed for this experience in front of the paintings brings the painting subject to life in 21st-century fashion.

On a different note, The National Gallery, London created an app-based AR experience that converts ten equine paintings into My Little Pony characters. With the help of AR classic paintings are converted into cartoon illustrations by children’s artist, Rachael Saunders.

A Hilly Landscape with Figures by Albert Cuyp

Illustration of ‘A Hilly Landscape with Figures’ for the AR app experience by Rachael Saunders

Now let’s look at active participation in recreation activities through immersive technologies. Think of active tourism, a combination of adventure, ecotourism and cultural activities. How can immersive technologies alternate these experiences? Immersive sports are just a starting point from transforming recreation tourism. Active experiences such as cycling tournaments, running etc., are no longer bound to geophysical locations.

How about reaching your audience remotely? Going back to the notion of audience and participation, when your audience cannot come to you, VR headsets can take you to them. A partnership between scenic destinations, VR developers and active equipment can create a unique dynamic experience. Think of your audience; instead of pedalling on a stationary bike in the gym or at home with no particular view, they can enjoy scenic views of destinations, cycle through virtual nature, paths or mountains. Simply by collaborating with developers such as VZFIT, recreation destination can promote their virtual presence or offer alternate experiences remotely.

Superimpose information? Reaching audiences/users through personal touchpoints can transform experiences, superimposing information through immersive technologies at destination impact. Skyline, launched by ViewRanger, is an example of augmented reality for landscapes. Inspired by the illustrations of Alfred Wainwright of the Lake District mountains, the app identifies landmarks up to 20 miles and provides geo-specific information such as landmark names and navigation routes.

Alternate the view for your visitors? With digital transformation, destinations can also offer distinctive experiences modalities simultaneously. For example, Blaenavon (World Heritage Site) in Wales is an area that stretches over 30 square kilometres. It is currently open to visitors to explore the environment. The area today is very different from what it was in the 19th and 20th centuries, an industrial site. Blaenavon is expanding its offering through a series of immersive 360 videos that revives the area’s history through recreated imageries. The immersive experience contextualises the area’s history by introducing the people of the past, such as a miner, the school founder and a shopkeeper.

Engage visitors at your destination differently? Besides digital presence and channelling information through immersive technologies, destinations can benefit from other features of immersive technologies, such as location-based gamification. Immersive gamification facilitates interaction at particular pre-defined locations as the users move around. For example, at outdoor destinations such as parks and zoos, location-based gamification can take the user from physical reality to a gamified version of the space in physical reality with additional and engaging features. The game experience of Super Mario Bros at Central Park is an excellent example of interacting with game items as you walk in the physical space.

Key Takeaways

Published on:
September 2021
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