AR, The New Face Of Museums

The museum experience was always monotone anywhere in the world. The process goes with the curators or guides speaking about certain exhibits to the best of their knowledge and the visitors grasping this audio knowledge. But all this is a thing of the past and Augmented Reality technology is all set to open new possibilities and reshape the museum experience. Everything in the world is increasingly competing at offerings and any static object would find itself merely competing for attention and Museums are obviously striving for relevance. The transition of this could be so smooth that to the uninitiated, the contents of the museum would remain unchanged. Similar to how mankind started depending more and more on technology, so did museums and they have relied heavily on technology to give more context and excitement to their exhibits. Initially this improvement was in the form of informational audio and video guides, it slowly moved on to smartphone apps and virtual tours and now the next iteration of that has been reached with Augmented Reality.

When Microsoft first started its AR tech, it’s targeted audience or crowd were in general, the entertainment and media sector but after licensing, reports showed that it was mostly instructional and educational institutions that have adopted this technology more. Several museums have already started adopting the AR technology. Interactive museum exhibits are becoming more common especially with the introduction of tools like Apple’s AR kit and Google’s ARCore, through which it has been ever so easy for developers to build and distribute AR apps. Just a few years ago, it would have not been outright feasible for museums to afford a class room worth of holo lens for their visitors but now it is very much within reach. Some museums have also been extra creative with this technology by making use of AR to bring back damaged, broken or stolen artifacts back into their collections.

The only con that has ever risen since the inception of AR in museum has been the concept of ‘virtual trespassing’ which asks the question whether it is in the legal limits of augmentation to trespass or to place a virtual object on private property. This question was first raised against the ever popular Augmented Reality game – Pokemon GO (which started the whole AR revolution) where the final verdict that was reached was that ‘AR itself doesn’t constitute trespassing but it could prompt users of the app to trespass and cause a nuisance to the unwitting hosts’.

At the moment, there are no existing laws to handle the situation but certain copyright or the Visual Artists Rights Act, may be applied to specific situations. The issue at hand can be very easily solved, especially in the case of museums as we may merely need to implement rules and regulations specific to each museum. Even now there exists certain rules for each museum such as no photography, no mobiles, no touching the exhibition among others and similarly they could negotiate a common ground for AR and other digital content. Artists, too, could adopt complex contracts with museums, spelling out what can and cannot be done to augment their works. Certain artists have even made their works solely with augmented concepts in their head and as an art enthusiast to comprehend the full notion of the idea one does need to visualize certain features beyond the physical plain.

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