As online art retailer CultureLabel explored in their Mighty Mobile! infographic, an astounding 87% of the world’s population are now mobile subscribers. A staggering 77% of users purposely search for information on their devices, with mobile searches having quadrupled since 2010. These increasingly ubiquitous mobile devices are now opening up an abundance of innovative and exciting ways for users to access, experience, explore and engage with content and information. One of which is the concept of augmented reality, long-hyped and now beginning to make inroads into real-life experiences.
Augmented reality, more commonly known as AR, is a form of ‘mediated reality’. It is augmenting the space within which the user is currently in by some form of multimedia such as video, graphics, sound or gps data, animating, illustrating and enhancing ones perception of reality. Information and meaning can be added to a real object or place and therefore deepening a persons understanding of the subject. It is with the use of AR technology such as your smartphone that the surrounding environment can become interactive and digitally manipulable.
If every place or object has a history and a context, arts and culture organisations are places full of stories to be told. By adding an extra dimension to a place or object, users are enabled a richer experience and culture can touch people in ever more absorbing ways.
Visualise the James Barry masterpiece ‘King Lear Weeping Over The Dead Body of Cordelia’ at Tate. People could scan the image with their smartphone at the click of a button with an AR app and instantly be drawn into an animated history of the 18th century piece; exploring one of Barry’s most ambitious neo-classical paintings in a fully immersive experience.
Galleries and museums could even have certain exhibitions or installations captured via AR technologies and then accessed and experienced across hundreds of locations across the country. Such assets could be accessed via publicity materials or the press, with objects literally coming out of the printed media.
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These AR technologies can also significantly help museums and galleries place imagination and individual perception at the centre of a user’s experience. The accompanying info and data you find in galleries and museums can become fully adaptive to the needs of users, leaving just the artworks and masterpieces on display. For example, users can have the choice to access deeper levels of information such as the history and context of the piece, or maybe a children’s version of the introductory text, or follow a particular thematic journey around the gallery. These AR apps and digital technologies are unobtrusive and built around the individual user’s preferences. Curators can then focus on creating tailored information for target demographics and interest-levels, rather than the one-size-fits-all model.
Personalisation of our cultural experience through AR creates an exciting new canvas for specialist curatorial insight. If we have the choice to enhance our reality, it must be something that is relevant to us. David Shing, the man who is responsible for understanding future digital trends for AOL, has alluded to this when discussing how there’s a lot of ‘noise’ online and content is becoming overwhelming due to the sheer amount of information available. He poses the notion of curated social content whereby people should begin to ‘unlike’ and ‘unfollow’, appropriating and personalising our social tools. If this idea does indeed grow across our social networks, perhaps our augmented experiences within museums and galleries can be increasingly relevant to us, replacing the standardised texts and user journeys with a myriad of new content to discover.