Augmented Reality is a technology that superimposes a computer-generated image on a user’s view of the real world, thus providing a composite view.
I am not going to lie, I had to look up the definition of augmented reality. I had never heard of it before I stumbled across an article on the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) and its use of this technology for its Ultimate Dinosaurs exhibit. After reading the article, I became pretty excited.
The possibilities are endless with this technology. Not only can visitors pick and chose what they want to learn about, but museums can also track what they are learning. This type of visitor engagement could change how museums communicate with its audiences. I think Tracy Ruddell, Assistant Vice President of Marketing for the ROM explained, “Augmented reality allows us to do things with objects that we could never do in the physical world because, of course, we still have to preserve the specimens. It also allows us to provide educational information, and really stories, about these objects that are difficult to do in traditional means.”
Museums and its collections sometimes are perceived as boring and detached because all the objects are displayed behind glass. The number one rule being DO NOT TOUCH. These signs are fairly prominent in some museums. Using an augmented reality app can give audiences the connection they are looking for. I think this could greatly benefit museums and the way it educates and interacts with its visitors.
However, my excitement waned when I found out ROM used a third party digital company to help create the software. This could not have been cheap and I imagine the costs were high. Many smaller museums would not be able to afford this, they would have to rely on grants or private fundraising. Sadly, this is harder than it seems. Most museums (AKA those that are not a Smithsonian Institution) within the United States deal with a shoestring budget. The type of manpower and software needed to maintain the app is not realistic for these museums.
Overall, I feel that augmented reality would be a great tool for museums. I think we should further experiment with type of software and eventually get to a place where it’s accessible to all interested institutions.