Augment This: Transforming the Museum Experience with Augmented Reality

By Ruddell, Tracy | ROM Magazine, Fall 2012 | Go to article overview

Augment This: Transforming the Museum Experience with Augmented Reality


Ruddell, Tracy, ROM Magazine


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Bringing prehistoric beasts back to life seems impossible, but technologies such as augmented reality (AR) can breathe new life into old bones. AR is changing the ways in which visitors engage with objects and challenging museums to think differently about how to display collections.

The ROM's current exhibition, Ultimate Dinosaurs: Giants from Gondwana, uses AR to bring dinosaurs to life. Through an AR app, virtual experiences are layered over real environments to produce three-dimensional, life-like visuals that enhance the user experience, in this case of great southern hemisphere dinosaurs. The ROM is the first museum in Canada to offer AR on this scale.

Museums have been using video for decades to enhance the interpretation of objects beyond what text labels alone can deliver. And now gamification--applying the principles of game design to other activities to make them more fun and engaging--is the buzz. But AR is something different. It combines two worlds--the real and the computer-generated. It's not virtual reality, which is about creating a completely simulated world. AR merges virtual with real world, and that's what's so exciting for museums.

AR is a powerful tool for museums because it can free objects from the confines of their displays. For the ROM's exhibition, that means fleshing out and animating skeletal casts to show what these dinosaurs may have looked like with skin and how they would have moved and behaved.

The addition of technology to what, in many ways, is a classic dinosaur exhibition, makes Ultimate Dinosaurs feel contemporary and relevant. Visitors have the choice of experiencing the exhibition in a more traditional fashion or using the extra tools provided to interact with objects in new ways. …

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