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The Rise of Virtual Reality in Museums

You’ve likely heard about how virtual reality (VR) is sweeping various industries and sectors—including museums and heritage sites—with state-of-the-art immersive interactive experiences. Last year was the breakout year for VR. After years of rumors about the next generation of hardware and applications, a solid lineup of VR headsets was released from some of the biggest names in tech. The latest VR technologies allow for the creation of realistic and immersive digital environments with dynamic visuals, audio, and elements that users can experience and interact with. The medium has the inherent ability to bring pieces of history, artifacts, simulations, and stories to life with considerable realism.

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#virtualreality #vr #museums #digitalinteractive #musetech
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Augmented Reality Brings Spaces To Life

Augmented reality (AR) is a technology that enables us to apply a layer of digital content over what we see in the real world. Museums as well as science and interpretive centres began embracing the technology years ago to enhance their exhibits with multimedia content geared toward digitally-minded visitors. In many ways, the applications that have been developed for museums and like institutions have set the pace for the creative solutions that are possible with this technology.

What makes augmented reality attractive for these types of environments (more so than virtual reality) is that it can enhance visitor experience without patrons becoming fully immersed in a digital experience that may detract from the actual exhibit collections and galleries – not to mention the social interaction aspect – that they came for. Augmented reality apps can provide a contextual layer of information, imagery, animation / video, and audio to objects, exhibits, outdoor landscapes, and specific spatial points in the physical world.

Augmented reality applications can utilize the sensors on mobile devices to trigger and track the positioning of digital visuals that are composited over views of the physical world (captured from the camera) based on proximity using GPS and ibeacons as well as gyroscope / compass rotation. The camera can also be used to read and trigger actions from QR codes as well as other visual recognition functions that can be integrated.

There are numerous possibilities for how AR experiences can be developed with different hardware, sensors, and digital media. While there have been some challenges with accuracy and limitations of the mobile device sensors, beacons, and other hardware, they have improved over time, and there are positive signs that the technology continues to mature.

A number of the largest tech companies have been investing in research and development of new wearable AR gear that will significantly heighten the level of detail and accuracy of merging interactive 2D / 3D digital media with the physical space. With some products the lines between AR and VR will likely blur more in the future. This will lead the ability to develop more innovative applications focused on education, gaming, and visualization that will be capable of augmenting experiences in the physical world more accurately.

Augmented reality is particularly popular with children who are keen on playing with new technology and AR experiences are commonly geared towards them. A layer of contextual multimedia content can provide various means of engagement with increased retention of educational content, social learning interactions, and entertainment value. With continual improvements, the possibilities and potential for AR experiences for museums, cultural / science / interpretive centres, and other institutions in the future are endless.

#augmentedreality   #digital   #exhibit   #museum   #interactive  
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Gesture-Based Interactive Digital Exhibits

It’s hard to believe that it’s been nearly a decade since Nintendo released the Wii, the first motion-controlled video game system on the market. The initial buzz about the Wii gaming experience centered around the gesture-based interaction technology used to play the games. Using body gestures, users are able to control game characters and elements and navigate menus. The software is highly responsive to gamer interaction with visuals and audio. It wasn’t too long before Microsoft followed suit by releasing the Kinect for Xbox, which has been revered as a better quality motion-controlled input device with a high degree of accuracy for gesture interaction. It was met with acclaim by the consumer gaming market, and the technology has maintained its status as a popular accessory for video gamers and digital enthusiasts alike. An experience that usually involves long periods of sitting and blistered fingers is evolving into a standing activity that lets you use your arms and legs to interact with something on-screen without touching any objects – and it’s a heck of a lot of fun. This has really enhanced the digital game experience and made it more immersive for users.

Gesture interaction has made its way into interactive digital exhibits in museums and cultural centres due to its added entertainment value for educational digital experiences (“edutainment,” if you will). Visitors of all ages have a lot of fun using gesture interaction while exploring and learning about an exhibit, which significantly increases visitor engagement.

The Kinect is a popular input device for custom interactive digital projects because of the ability for developers to create fully integrated custom apps. Interactive digital exhibit projects found in museums, interpretive centres, and institutions around the world have used the Kinect successfully for a variety of applications.

Interactive floor and wall projection experiences use motion-based interaction as well, yet they have unique qualities that make them more suitable for certain applications in institutions and public spaces. Another interactive gesture-based input device is the Leap Motion controller, which works on a smaller, more intricate scale as it tracks hand and finger movements close to a motion sensor.

Virtual Reality (VR) has generated a buzz with the Oculus Rift headset and other products overcoming many of the challenges that held back previous VR technologies. The new VR hardware and software capabilities look very promising, and we’re looking forward to a lot more developments in this arena. Gesture interactive input combined with the VR headset is about as immersive as it gets for digital experiences. VR is already being implemented for interactive digital exhibits; however, it’s not as common, and it may be a bit early to determine how well accepted (and appropriate) it will be in these environments.

Gesture interaction technology has demonstrated its staying power and continually improves with research and development. The technology is not new for kids or video game and electronics enthusiasts; however, it’s always exciting to use, and it will surely remain novel for years to come.

#gesture   #interactive   #digital   #exhibit   #museum  
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Multi Touch Table and Wall Interactives

Multi-touch table and wall interactive experiences have been deployed in public spaces, museums, and interpretive centres since pre-2010. Recent studies show that the majority of visitors to the institutions that feature these multi-touch table and wall interactives are still not familiar with them or have not interacted with one before. “Open Exhibits Multitouch Table Use Findings”.

This is a bit surprising considering how their popularity is increasing, however, it proves that the technology is still considered fresh and innovative for visitors. On average, these interactive digital exhibits are drawing visitors for longer periods of time than many conventional interactives and they are proving to remain novel to users. They make a great addition that can augment and enhance the overall exhibit experience for visitors of all ages.

Multi-touch tables and walls are powerful all-in-one computers with large built in commercial-grade touch monitors that are engineered for durability and the heavy usage that the general public put on them. They allow the use of multi-touch gestures that we’ve become familiar with on our mobile phones and tables, but on screens of a much larger scale.

The large number of touch input points accepted on these devices and the ability to provide content across a larger display area make it a great platform for developing multi-user learning experiences that are engaging, more social, and co-operative in nature. These interactive experiences allow groups to explore and learn digital exhibit content together yet gives the visitors the ability to muse and interact independently of each other at their own pace. And as typically is the case with digital media, children are quickly drawn to the multi-touch displays, wasting no time getting familiar with the interactive content and learning all the multi-touch gesture possibilities.

Blending educational / interpretive content into a game (or simply a gesture-based interactive) experience for this type platform is a fun, yet effective method of communicating concepts and stories to visitors. Creative methods of layering and presenting interactive content for the user experience piques curiosity and encourages discovery. These multi-sensory interactive digital experiences can be quite engaging; combining meticulously crafted digital imagery, illustration, animation, and video that are responsive to touch interaction at very high resolutions. With the technology today we can provide HD, 4K, or even 8K resolutions along with audio and sound effects. The hardware and processing power of these multi-touch table and wall platforms allow for graphically-intensive applications that exceed what’s possible on mobile devices as well as allowing for many more simultaneous touch inputs. 

Some benefits of multi-touch table and wall interactive experiences include:

    - Social learning experiences including sharing of discoveries and perspectives.
   - Common understanding and connection through collaborative interaction.
   - Engaging and entertaining interaction with multi-touch gestures that enhance user experience.
   - Ability to implement detailed visuals and media with other creative content for game and learning experiences.

These interactive digital exhibits are great for visual-based learning experiences where less text is required however they are also effective for layering content (including text) in creative methods. Users are typically drawn to the high level of interaction and visuals that multi-touch tables and walls can provide which make it an attractive option for any institution looking to engage their visitors with extraordinary digital experiences.

#multitouch   #interactive   #digitalmedia   #multimedia  
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Interactive Projection for Immersive Experiences

It’s exciting to be continually researching and working with the latest interactive technologies here at Ambient Interactive. Through this blog we’ll be sharing some of the emerging interactive digital technologies we work with, how they can be applied, and some examples of how they are being used for interactive digital exhibits and environments. In this post, we’ll look at interactive projection and its unique immersive qualities.

Interactive floor and wall projection experiences have become increasingly popular in museums, interpretive centres, and other institutional spaces around the world. These types of interactive digital exhibits are at the fore-front of creative technologies and are an effective addition to the mix of exhibits that keep these spaces relevant in a digital-age with tech-savvy visitors.

High-end projection systems, motion detection hardware, and interactive software are combined and customized to suite the experience and spatial environment. Visitors can use hand, leg, and body gestures to interact with projected imagery on floors, in front of walls, or other surfaces. Depending upon the experience that is produced, visitors can see things in a completely different perspective and are able to use their own gestures to interact and affect the imagery and audio in ways never before thought possible. It offers something quite different than traditional digital media that is experienced on stationary displays using touch screen input or other peripherals. Interactive projection is has to be experienced to be fully appreciated.

There are many applications for interactive projection such as educational and storytelling experiences, multi-player games, unique brand experiences, captivating ambient effects, and other memorable visitor experiences for museums and interpretive centres. It is commonly implemented just for its entertainment value for visitors of all ages including (and especially) children who find it endlessly fascinating. And since there is no limitation to the number of people who can interact with it at once, it’s great for large groups of visitors or events.

Whether it’s a projection for an area of floor in a museum, a wall in an interpretive centre, or the side of a culturally significant building, the possibilities are endless as to what environments can be utilized and interactive visuals can produced. With the latest edge-blending techniques we can combine numerous screens of high-definition imagery across multiple projectors, which is ideal for larger scale projects and immersive experiences. And by applying projection mapping techniques, we can manipulate imagery projected over surfaces that are not flat such as buildings, art installations, or other complex objects. We can also project onto both sides of glass and other clear surfaces by applying foils (clear film) to the surface, which makes the surface interactive for touch applications. These are just a few of the many different effects that can be generated using proven methods.

The potential of these unique interactive digital experiences is still only being realized. We look forward to working more with interactive projection and creating experiences that are innovative and leave lasting impressions with visitors.

#interactive   #digitalmedia    #museum   #exhibit  
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