Content, Communication, Continuity. 3 things museums need to make AR work

Aleksandra Nagele

26 participants, including experts from domestic and international museums, attended an augmented reality workshop powered by Wikitude and Wezit on October 24th in Vienna.

A little monkey joyfully eats a banana in between huge Musa leaves. Suddenly a katta with a striped tail flits behind. Over there, a hummingbird buzzes around a cactus flower. The tropical plants in the greenhouse of the botanical garden Jean-Marie Pelt near Nancy in France are alive. The animal bustle takes place only virtually on the tablets of the schoolchildren. The kids follow attentively every animal move. And that’s exactly what it’s all about: with the help of Augmented Reality (AR), the real and the digital world are getting mixed. Museums use AR to draw their visitors into the action in a playful way – no matter if it’s about art, nature or technology.

From Paris to Philadelphia: Wikitude & Wezit show Augmented Reality apps from Museums

In partnership with Wikitude premium partner Wezit, an exciting selection of Augmented Reality applications in the cultural heritage industry was presented to museums at the AR Workshop on October 24th, 2019.

In Austria, some museums already experiment with Augmented Reality. Many others are interested, but do not know exactly how to tackle it. With our AR workshop, we wanted to share our experience and promote knowledge sharing among museums, “said Paula Perrichot, Marketing Director at Wikitude.

A total of 26 participants came to the Augmented Reality for Museums Workshop, including cultural experts from domestic and international exhibits. The workshop was held in the Technical Museum in Vienna.

Best of 2019: Vienna, Nancy, Florence and Philadelphia. In these cities you will find the best AR apps we have seen in museums in 2019.

AR Workshop for Museums - full classroom
Picture: The Augmented Reality workshop was fully booked.

Wikitude and Wezit provided insights into the “Artistes & Robots” exhibition of the Grand Palais in Paris, the AR app of the Celtic Museum Hallein and the secrets of the terracotta warriors from the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia, who once guarded the tomb of the first Chinese emperor.

Testing Microsoft ́s mixed reality glasses HoloLens was for sure one of the highlights of the day.

After that, participants worked in small groups on AR projects, which were presented afterward.

“I travelled from Italy to Vienna just to attend this AR Workshop, and it was worth it! The experience inspired me with different ideas that could potentially reshape the index of my Ph.D. Thesis on 3D interactive experiences, including AR and other tools, in museums” – Ahmed Ellaithy – Director General | Mallawi Museum Egypt & Ph.D. Candidate | Polytechnic University of Turin

augmented reality and museums: Workshop participant tries out HoloLens
Ahmed Ellaithy testing Microsoft Hololens Mixed Reality Glasses

No chance for “museum fatigue”: Amazed by visually appealing content

Wezit’s Ségolène Valençot co-organized the AR workshop. For some time now, she has been observing a certain tiredness, which often affects museum visitors walking through an exhibition. Augmented reality is the ideal tool to prevent the phenomenon of “museum fatigue” and to keep visitors playful with the topic.

For example, in the Celtic Museum Hallein since 2016, a talking celt brings the display cabinet to life. The digital avatar appears to visitors on their mobile phones or tablets and reveals where the Celts relieved themselves in the mines or how they got their wild hairstyle.

Augmented Celt in Hallein, Austria
Take a selfie with a “real”  digital celt. 

These are the stories to success,” says Dr. Barbara Tober, director of cultural education in the Celtic Museum Hallein, at the AR workshop: “The digital content should be high-quality, unique and also surprising.”

Telling great stories is the only way to amaze visitors, as the participants of the workshop agreed.

In addition to successful storytelling, the digital content should also be visually attractive. But that is ultimately always a matter of budget, says Ségolène Valençot. As international project manager at Wezit, she has already implemented numerous projects in museums with the AR software from Wikitude: “When designing an app, we always find good solutions that fit the museum’s budget.”

How much does an AR project cost?

 “For any digital project and especially Augmented Reality projects, there are specific elements to take into account when budgeting for an app, such as the complexity of the project, type of AR content, design elements, among others,” says Ségolène Valençot, project manager at the transmedia platform Wezit: “For a well-rounded project, museums should count with 15,000 EUR to start with.”

Usage gives insights: Is there a gap between users and the AR app?

A joint look at the statistics of the Keltenapp shows that especially larger objects such as skeletons are much more likely to be explored with the AR app than smaller showpieces. Dr. Barbara Tober is pleased that around one-third of the visitors who once used the AR app return to the museum again and again.

Overall, however, I would have wished for a bit more app users,” Tober admits.

“Sometimes it feels like as if there was a wall between the users and the app,” adds Sophie Wiesinger, from the Museum of Illusions.

If there is one, how can a museum bridge this wall? 

App versus Web

Is it for instance true, that fewer people would download a new app for their museum visit?

Could a museum increase the usage of its AR experience if it was available in the browser instead of an app?

That could be the case,” replies Paula Perrichot from Wikitude, “but webAR experiences bring major drawbacks: they have worse performance and are not as stable. Complex applications could not be handled well enough. We need technological robustness to make AR apps attractive. If AR is part of the museum’s long-term strategy and not just a one-time attraction, I recommend sticking to apps. “

augmented reality and museums: participants create their digital Ar strategy
Workshop participants create their AR concepts.

It’s important to have a continuous strategy

Participant Anika Kronberger would also rather recommend embedding Augmented Reality in a long-term strategy. She was one of the lead designers of the Augmented Reality space in Science and Technology Museum CoSA (Center for Science and Activities) in Graz, where 40 HoloLens glasses can be used by the visitors: “The use of AR can bring great added value for applications and make topics accessible in other ways. AR can not only be interesting during the visit but also before and after touring the museum.”

“If you have a great app, you have to communicate that it’s there.”

The job has not been fully done by creating the app only” adds Paula Perrichot from Wikitude: “You always have to communicate that it’s there. Many museums forget about this step. Simple communication such as a roll-up at the entrance or some information on the website are a good start“.

Around one-third of the visitors who once used the AR app, return to the Celtic Museum in Hallein. What are the usage figures of other AR apps? Find out more about usage numbers and statistics here

Imagination has no limits. But content rights do (have limits).

Only recently, together with Artefact, the Viennese museum mumok transformed its front into a buoyant ball pool using Wikitude AR technology. 

We’ve developed so many exciting AR ideas in the team,” says Marie Claire-Gagnon from Vienna’s mumok, “but as an art gallery, we often come up against legal limits.

For example, getting the digital rights for works of art could be costly and expensive. Then, very often it happens, that a picture may not be changed digitally. 

In archeology, for instance, it is a completely different thing. Dr. Barbara Tober from the Celtic Museum is an archaeologist herself: “Where the imagination reaches its limits, augmented reality is a great addition. Things that are hard to imagine will suddenly become tangible to visitors.”

This is the case for an example in Carnuntum, in Lower Austria. There, the old amphitheater is being revived with the help of Augmented Reality. What is invisible or even buried to the eye becomes real and experienceable.

This way, monuments and old buildings could preserve their cultural heritage for future generations,” says Martin Herdina, CEO of Wikitude: “With the help of AR, a burnt-down cathedral like Notre Dame could be resurrected virtually.”

Contact Us
Previous Article
Halloween Special: The Dark Side of Augmented Reality
Next Article
Halloween Special: The Dark Side of Augmented Reality