Museum Trend You Can Act on in 2018: Augmented Reality (AR)

Recently, we came across this article from Brilliant Design Studio, which describes the unique trends and issues facing the museum industry in the next year and into the future. The piece describes many upcoming challenges and really highlights the need to engage younger generations to ensure that museums will be along for decades to come. In doing so, the author not-so-subtly hinted that building this appeal would require a healthy dose of innovation, and perhaps a complete re-imagining of the museum experience to accommodate the generational shifts to come.

This got us thinking: how can the museum industry future-proof itself, to ensure that it remains relevant for the next generation? Well, if places like the International Ramen Museum or the Kansas Barbed Wire Museum can make it, then we’d say there’s plenty of fight in the museum industry.

In this article, we’ll dive in to the first of five innovations taking place in the industry, and offer some ideas on how museums of all shapes and sizes can implement them in the coming months.

1: Augmented Reality (AR)

We’ve talked at length about Augmented Reality (AR) in the past, but basically AR refers to technology that superimposes imagery into your field of view when viewing through a screen. Think: bunny ear filters on Snapchat or R2-D2 and Chewbacca’s game of Dejarik aboard the Millennium Falcon (Author’s note: how on earth do I know that it’s called Dejarik, but I can never remember my ATM PIN?)

How to use AR in museums

One of the coolest possibilities in Augmented Reality for museums is the ability to add to existing exhibits without taking up additional space. Take, for example, The Smithsonian Natural History Museum in Washington, DC: in their skin and bones exhibit, visitors can use an app to point their phone’s camera at different skeletons, which then grow flesh and begin to move right before their eyes, adding an additional layer (ha!) to the entire experience. This move to incorporate AR into the exhibit has rejuvenated one of the Smithsonian’s oldest exhibits. This Smithsonian Magazine article talks more about this, and four other AR-related museum enhancements.

Additional uses for AR in a museum space could easily revolve around providing additional information or context to existing exhibits: using an app, visitors could point their camera at an artifact and additional information about that item could be displayed alongside it on the user’s screen. For those seeking a more robust understanding of an exhibit, such a feature would got a long way to satisfy their intellectual curiosity. Taking this a step further, museums could incorporate AR as a way to bring narratives to life, superimposing an event’s reenactment over an entire display. Alternatively, a virtual tour guide could lead visitors on a more personalized tour of a museum, on their own schedule. But perhaps those ideas would be better suited for virtual reality.

Read about the next innovation: Virtual Reality