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How VR and AR could change the way we view history

The new versions of reality

Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) are transforming the way we experience the world. Set to be worth up to £354.3 million by 2020, there’s no way to say for sure just how much disruption VR/AR will bring, but it’s here, and it’s a technology you want to pay attention to.

Adoption is early days but growing

VR/AR is becoming the latest medium used by museums to create more dynamic and interactive exhibits. The Natural History Museum joined the hype in early 2018 when they launched Hold the World; a virtual reality experience featuring a 3D hologram of Sir David Attenborough, guiding you through the exhibits and allowing participants to virtually pick up, hold, enlarge and bring to life the specimens.

The technology isn’t just being adopted by big museums either. It’s also being introduced in smaller sites all over Europe. The Helsinki City Museum, The Heureka Science Centre, The Norwegian Maritime Museum, and The Danish Castle Centre, to name a few, have all begun introducing VR/AR technology in order to foster curiosity and bring their exhibits to life.

Why aren’t more museums investing?

The high costs associated with VR/AR is one of the main factors influencing its introduction in museums. However, the surge in ownership of affordable devices that can display AR/VR graphics has created new opportunities for museums making it increasingly possible for museums to adopt these technologies. In addition, last week Apple announced that it would shortly unveil an enhanced version of its year-old ARkit, which lets developers build augmented reality experiences into their apps so its about to get much easier.

VR/AR experiences can be made possible with something as simple as a smartphone and a cardboard VR/AR headset meaning museums need to do little more than introduce something as simple as an app to make VR/AR possible.

Museums are filled to the brim with information and artefacts, and the introduction of VR/AR can help to open the door for the world to become involved and build new avenues to distribute this knowledge. By using existing exhibits and content in museums and developing AR software to amplify this basic content, it creates an entirely different experience, giving the participant a richer view and understanding at no additional production time or running cost.

The fear of being replaced

It’s a big one. This innate fear of anything new has contributed to a misconception surrounding virtual platforms. Museums may be holding back from progressing with technology out of fear of being entirely replaced.

“Why come to a museum if people can see objects virtually?”

Technology isn’t affecting the appreciation of museums or physical art, instead, it is making museums more accessible. VR/AR technology is fostering a new type of curiosity in visitors, enlivening exhibits through adding life, sound, and further visual aspects to otherwise static objects giving context that otherwise would not be possible in the real word.

The Bronze Age VR project of the British Museum successfully demonstrated that displaying objects in virtual reality did not lessen or replace real life experiences but instead added more context to the objects. Visitors were offered the chance to walk around a traditional Bronze Age roundhouse and pick up and examine objects as if they were there, enabling audiences to see and learn more.

As nothing more than a pocket-sized revolution, virtual reality is changing the future. If you’d like to discuss the possibility of introducing VR/AR technology into your museum or destination and enhancing the educational experience of your visitors, or you would like to know more about the technology options available and what they can do for you, please click here to get in touch.

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