Immersive technologies transport visitors through time, elevating learning and engagement

As custodians of our collective heritage, museums play an important part in preserving and presenting the treasures of the past. However, in an era characterized by rapid technological advancements, the challenge lies in keeping these institutions engaging for tech-savvy audiences. This is where immersive technologies enter the scene.

While museums preserve and showcase cultural artifacts, immersive technologies such as augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) amplify engagement by providing interactive and educational experiences. Both aim to bridge the gap between the past and the present, offering dynamic ways for audiences to explore history, art and culture in captivating and memorable ways.

How MuzeAR is enhancing the museum journey through AR

When it comes to using technology at its best, one very interactive and interesting practical application is the MuzeAR virtual guide developed by our XR team for the Ethnographic Museum, part of the Palace of Culture, Iasi. Keen on driving technological innovation in all areas, we have combined our expertise and the museum’s desire to foster a deeper appreciation for our heritage to create this innovative product that is changing the way we view history.

The virtual guide uses AR to breathe life into heritage items and present them in a creative and captivating manner. As visitors explore the museum's exhibits, they uncover long-forgotten uses and gain a newfound appreciation for our history and culture.

The current version of the MuzeAR virtual guide includes three massive artefacts which showcase some of the oldest times in local culture, impressing through their construction technique and size. These specific exhibits entered the museum collection in the 19th century and since then have drawn a lot of attention. However, since the pieces are no longer actively used for their original purpose, many visitors have left the museum wondering how exactly they functioned. Now, with MuzeAR they finally have the answer. The AR guide allows visitors to breathe life into these antique devices and see them working again, transforming seeds into oil.

In addition to the 3D versions of the exhibits overlapping the real ones, and the interactive animations, the application includes a voice-over feature that can be activated based on preferences. The virtual guide also includes a navigation component that guides visitors inside the museum to avoid congestion and ensure a pleasant experience.

Behind the scenes - the creative process

Among the first steps towards building the virtual guide was doing a 3D scan of the exhibits that were included in the application. The scanning allowed the XR team to have a starting point for recreating the items in 3D, including maintaining the specific properties and characteristics of the original objects, such as colour, shape, texture etc. In addition, 3D scanning allows museums to keep detailed recordings of these exhibits, which helps preserve them digitally.

The process continued with fully recreating the exhibits in 3D and animating the items to reflect the entire timeline of turning seeds into oil. Ultimately, the characters were created using Kinect devices to capture body movements and then animated to perform the right actions.

Our colleagues enthusiastically collaborated, leveraging their creativity and expertise in extended reality (XR), to craft an immersive experience for museum visitors.

Beyond the novelty factor and the accuracy of the 3D models replicating museum exhibits, the AR application brings numerous benefits to both visitors and museums alike:

  • Customization of the Visiting Experience: Visitors have the chance to view the 3D version of the exhibits, enjoy the animated journey, listen to the narrated storytelling, decide what exhibits they want to see using the navigation feature, rewatch the animation or stop it and move to the next one;
  • Accessibility of Information: Accessing additional information about exhibits through the phone, eliminating the need to read informative panels;
  • Preservation of fragile artifacts through digital replication: By creating digital copies (3D variants) of highly valuable or fragile exhibits, the museum can ensure their preservation and allow viewing without risks, while also providing a clearer and more detailed picture, especially regarding small and complex details;
  • Attraction of a tech-savvy younger audience: MuzeAR enables museums to attract a younger audience, passionate about technology, who are more receptive to such experiences.

The MuzeAR application works on both iOS and Android mobile devices, being available for download in their respective store.

To enjoy the AR experience at the Ethnographic Museum, visitors should install the MuzeAR guide on their phones, make sure their internet connection is strong, and follow the instructions in the application.