‘ a technology that superimposes a computer generated image on the users’ view of the real world, thus providing a composite view ‘
Augmented reality is a relatively new aspect of technology that offers the ability to display digital objects superimposed onto the real world. A predetermined point of space is detected by a digital device and is used as a reference point. When the user of the device is explores space through the same device an interactive animation appears at the position of the initial reference point. Real space is superimposed with information.
AR technology has been initially designed to explore animation, its use can be extended to display information of any type, text, audio, video etc. The variety of viewing options that it is offering is what made the AR both affordable and one of the most rapidly evolving technologies.
At the Natural History Museum in London a specially designed room uses extensively AR techniques. Guests use tablets provided from the museum to explore the displayed content in one of the three screens of the space. Web cameras are possitioned at eight different points of space in addition to eighty LED bulbs in order to provide the superimposed images that interact with three-dimensional exhibits.
In Rotterdam, AR has replaced city tours. The Dutch Architecture Institute has developed a special application through which when smartphone users are scanning with their device reference points of the city they receive information for historic photos of old buildings, three-dimensional models of buildings with which they can interact or renderings of buildings under construction. A similar application is the one being used at the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh, where the public can see specific places of the city that were significant for the life of the artist.
AR is not limited to optical interference. One of the most impressive applications is developed by the Museum of London. Streetmuseum™ Londinium directs you to locations across London where you can immerse yourself in the sights and sounds of Roman London. As you’re guided around the city you’ll unearth exquisite artefacts as if discovering them for the first time and reveal the stories of life in Londinium.
And here, as in many other uses of new technologies, the designers will have to find the right ratio between useful information and integrated experience.
AR is one of the most dynamically evolving aspects of digital technology. Especially for museums and cultural institutions in general, it offers the possibility of providing new services that are complementary to the existing ones, while making accessible institutions to the younger generations who are more familiar with the technology. It also enables information to cross the physical boundaries of space and provide new forms of actions and experiences.