Augmented reality (AR) technology has completely changed how we perceive our surroundings in recent years. AR has shown to be a potent tool for engaging users and enhancing their experiences across various industries, including gaming, education, and healthcare. In the arts, augmented reality (AR) technology has created new opportunities for immersive and interactive exhibitions, offering a distinctive way to discover cultural concepts and artifacts. Through an analysis of the AR app created by the British Museum for their “Living with gods” exhibition, we will explore the potential of augmented reality technology in the arts in this article.
Understanding AR Technology
First, let’s give a general overview of augmented reality technology and some potential uses in the arts before moving on to the case study. With the help of a mobile device or headset, augmented reality (AR) technology projects digital content onto the physical world. In contrast to virtual reality (VR), which creates a completely immersive digital environment, augmented reality (AR) improves the real world by overlaying it with digital data or images.
AR technology can be applied to the arts to give viewers interactive, interesting experiences. For instance, augmented reality (AR) overlays that create virtual reconstructions of historical or cultural artifacts or provide additional context or information about the objects on display could be used in a museum exhibition.
Opportunities for AR Technology in the Arts
AR technology presents unique opportunities for artists and arts organizations to create innovative and interactive works that engage audiences in new ways:
- AR technology allows artists and arts organizations to create innovative and interactive works that engage audiences in new ways.
- AR can be used to create immersive installations that blend physical and digital art or even augment painting and sculpture.
- Arts possibilities are endless as AR technology develops and becomes more accessible.
Challenges and Limitations of AR Technology in the Arts
While AR technology presents exciting opportunities for the arts, there are also some challenges and limitations to consider.
- AR technology offers arts opportunities, but it has drawbacks.
- Smaller arts organizations and individual artists may find AR experience development and implementation too expensive.
- AR experiences may not be accessible to all visitors due to the technology required.
- AR experiences may overshadow physical objects and artworks, obscuring their original purpose.
- As AR technology advances, artists and organizations must consider these challenges and limitations carefully to create innovative and effective AR experiences.
Case Study: AR in the British Museum’s “Living with gods” Exhibition
One successful example of AR technology being used in the arts is the AR app developed by the British Museum for their “Living with gods” exhibition. This exhibition explored the role of religion in human societies through a collection of over 2,000 objects from around the world.
Aztec sacrificial knife, covered with turquoise mosaic, 1400–1521, Mexico.Photograph: © Trustees of the British Museum
The AR app allowed users to explore the objects from the exhibition in a new and interactive way, providing additional context and information through AR overlays. For example, users could see a virtual reconstruction of a statue of the Hindu goddess Mahishasuramardini, complete with the sound of the goddess’s lion roaring in the background. The app also included a feature where users could create their virtual shrine, selecting objects from the exhibition and arranging them in a personalized way.
AR technology in the exhibition created a unique and immersive experience for visitors, enhancing their engagement with the objects on display. The virtual reconstructions and AR overlays provided a new perspective on the objects and their cultural significance, while the personalized virtual shrines allowed visitors to connect with the exhibition in a more meaningful way.
Expert Insights on the Use of AR in Museums
The success of the British Museum’s augmented reality app demonstrates the potential of augmented reality technology in the arts. There are some challenges to consider when incorporating AR into exhibitions and programs. For example, the technology itself may have limitations, such as the requirement for specific hardware or the possibility of technical glitches. Furthermore, there may be concerns about the impact of augmented reality on the traditional museum-going experience and whether it diminishes the authenticity of the objects on display.
To gain further insight into the use of AR in museums, Chief Digital Information Officer at the Cleveland Museum of Art. Dr. Alexander shared her thoughts on the benefits and challenges of using AR technology in museums.
“AR technology has the potential to create an immersive and engaging experience for visitors, particularly younger audiences who are accustomed to interacting with digital content. However, museums need to be thoughtful in their use of AR and ensure that it enhances, rather than detracts from, the visitor experience. There may be limitations to the technology that need to be considered, such as the need for specific hardware or the potential for technical glitches.”
Chief Digital Information Officer at the Cleveland Museum of Art. Dr. Alexander
Augmented reality technology in the arts opens up new avenues for engaging audiences and improving the traditional museum-going experience. The British Museum’s use of augmented reality technology in their “Living with Gods” exhibition is an excellent example of how this technology can be used successfully in the arts. The AR app they created allows users to explore exhibition objects in a new and interactive way, providing additional context and information via AR overlays.