Skip to content

Considering AR or VR? Learn What We Learned from Our Projects and Visitors!

Category: On-Demand Programs: Digital Programming


This is a recorded session from the 2020 AAM Virtual Annual Meeting and MuseumExpo.

Embarking on an augmented or virtual reality project can be daunting. Learn what to watch out for, account for, and steer toward so you can avoid (or at least prepare for) problems that may arise when producing visitor‐ and staff‐friendly AR and VR projects.

Presenters: Robin White Owen, MediaCombo; Elaine Charnov, Intrepid Sea Air & Space Museum; Silvina Fernandez‐Duque, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum; Michael Haley Goldman, United States Holocaus Memorial Museum

Transcript:

Robin White Owen: Good afternoon. Hello everyone. Welcome to our panel and thanks very much for tuning in.

First, I’d like to introduce my panelists and it would be great if they could turn on their cameras so everybody can see them.

There we are. Okay, so first of all, oh, I’m Robin white on President and creative producer at media combo and

Let’s see.

My screen next to me there’s a ceiling so Veena Fernandez UK who is the product prod product manager, a future projects at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum

And then we have Michael Hayley Goldman, who is the director of future projects at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum, and then we have Elaine Sarnoff senior vice president exhibits education and public programs at the intrepid museum.

So we’re going to spend about half an hour of our time together presenting the augmented reality and virtual reality projects that we’ve

Produced as case studies that demonstrate and demonstrate what we’ve learned from them and then we’ll have about a half hour for questions and conversations with all of you.

For the past 10 weeks. So it seems like everyone, including museums has been churning out virtual offsite experiences passive and interactive and downloadable and when museums reopen again as they for onsite experiences as is already happening.

We’ll have to wait carefully the advantages and disadvantages of providing virtual experiences, both on site and off site.

With income down, we need to make the most of our financial resources, which means making sure that we’re using the best technology to communicate our stories.

To our target audience and know as much as possible about how to avoid costly mistakes with AR and VR usually don’t get do overs. Right.

So the things that we are going to cover at a minimum, and then you may have some other topics that you’d like us to discuss our hardware considerations.

staffing requirements and responsibilities audience learning curves with technology space and traffic considerations significance of onsite context for an experience.

The importance of being transparent with historians and scholars and other experts when they start to worry about how things are not looking exactly as they think they should look

Working with an outside production company and also working with virtual reality three 360 degree tours and how to make them as appealing and watchable as possible.

So first I’m going to hand it off to

Atlanta Sarnoff who’s going to tell us about an AR experience that was on site at the intrepid museum Lynn.

Elaine Charnov: THANK YOU. Robin and how cool to see folks in the chat room from all over the nation and Canada and beyond. So it’s going to be a terrific conversation will ultimately have

Let’s start with the first slide.

And then move on to the next slide.

Please.

So we can go to. Terrific. So just to set context for those of you who might not be familiar with intrepid Sierra and Space Museum located in Manhattan, New York.

Dedicated to telling the story of intrepid which served from World War Two through Vietnam War era.

Focus obviously on sea air and space. And as you’ll see in the lower left corner. That is the prototype orbiter space shuttle enterprise.

Which really paved the way for the Space Shuttle Program. The museum welcomes about 1.2 million visitors each year. So, you know, pretty

high volume of visitor ship and we really try to focus on projects that can appeal to smaller audiences and to larger audiences and with this project we were trying to suss out

You know how many people you can actually engage with whether it’s a AR or VR projects, the project, we’re going to be speaking of here is what you see feature Defying Gravity women in space and

It’s a AR slash mixed reality experience. And I’ll get into that in just a few, but in the meantime let’s move to the next slide.

It’s super important to figure out why even pursue a project, such as this, it’s highly intensive heavy lift often there’s major dollars involved. So just, again, to give a little more context.

The project was going to focus on women’s contributions to the space program with the hologram experience of Mae Jemison. Many of you might know African American former astronaut

Who’s also major scientist and involved in a lot of public speaking and

Why that was meaningful for us is, as you’ll see in the upper left corner. We are very deeply committed to focusing on diversity and young women in STEM Disciplines through our education department and with everything we do. We like that to be in the forefront of our mind.

The exhibition space inside the space shuttle pavilion is super complicated it is a space that isn’t climate controlled, therefore it’s difficult for us to acquire

And get extended loans of NASA artifacts and other kinds of artifacts. So we need to be creative and the kind of storytelling that we can do in the space shuttle pavilion.

And also the museum has been embarking on a major scanning project to create our own AR and VR experiences as you’ll see on the right hand side. That’s an example of one of the scans of the interior of

The intrepid and we want to be doing as much research as possible to understand where our successes, where our challenge points before we take the deep, deep dive into developing AR and VR experiences of our entire

Aircraft Carrier. So, next slide please.

One of the key issues, obviously, is partnerships we were very privileged here and that

We were approached by Smithsonian Microsoft, we are listen to develop this project, and it was being created for Smithsonian day 2018

And so, as you see, there’s lots of external companies involved as well as you’ll see the various staff departments from exhibits education marketing visitor services it business development, who all had to contribute.

In ways above and beyond. I would say typical exhibitions because of all the layering of these projects but but i will really emphasize that finding key partners to help go in on this are is critical to success. And just to give you a sense there was close to eight months of background work before this project came to be.

Next slide please.

So what is the product, the experience. It was a 10 minute experience from start to finish that I will get into the details of exactly what the experience was in a moment, but all to say it was enhanced with this first generation of the HoloLens fitted headset and

During the experience. So we ended up staging it for exactly a year, it was intended to be a three month experience, but there was so much enthusiasm about it and so much work involved.

That from September 2018 to September 2019 but ultimately 24,000 people on average experienced this.

But kind of complicated as I have mentioned before we get 1.2 million visitors a year so very, very few people could experience. We can only handle at maximum 10 people an hour. So we had about 60 to 70 people per day. Next slide.

So what was the experience. Basically it was Mae Jemison is a hologram taking you on a journey through about six or seven different experiences and appreciating the contributions.

Of women scientists and astronauts to the US space program on your left, you’ll see astronaut Peggy Whitson first female astronaut to command the ISS.

And had the greatest number of spacewalks on the right, you’ll see Katherine Johnson African American mathematician who worked for NASA. And recently has been a household name thanks to the amazing Film HIDDEN FIGURES so big, open space, the ability to walk from I’ll say

illustrating that where you’re supposed to stand and it when you stand in a space, it triggers very brief experience. So again, 10 minutes, start to finish. For about like visiting eight different major Moments in the History of women in the space program.

Will move on to the next slide please.

So what did we learn from visitors participants really enjoyed the educational aspect, lots of positive reviews of

That it wasn’t a deep dive, but very, very engrossing and that they really walked away learning a lot about these amazing and contributors

But many participants thought the weight was way too long. It could be up to an hour long

And he said that the device hurt their nose. Now this was the first generation of hollow lens and there’s been a lot of modifications subsequently

Also visitors under the age of 13 couldn’t enjoy the experience because of the restrictions of HoloLens 430 and above, and it

Was very frustrating for them and I will also say that that idol Defying Gravity gave people false expectation what the experience was.

People felt like, were they going to feel weightlessness, were they going to get seasick you know or be have upset and definitely it’s super important. Always, when we do exhibitions and other constellations to think about titles, but we had a bit of a hiccup here.

What did we learn from this app. So let’s move on to the next slide please.

This is where we had so many kind of amazing responses we really encourage our staff to be forthright around projects, learn about our successes and the challenges so

One of the big challenges. Again, the wait. Line the waiting time was so long.

That the staff felt like we could have done a lot better helping visitors to understand what to expect.

We should have created laminated cards in different languages or some kind of, you know, app or something to download so that that folks could have understood

What it was going to be to have your the lens fit what the potential storylines were providing additional information, we should have been much clearer about age limits.

Again, the wait times we should have had signage and multiple languages, as many of you do we do to have so many international visitors, for whom English is not their first language. And so all of that communication can get very

Challenged and slow, slow down. When your staff is trying to explain sort of the different policies and processes and procedures.

We should have done a lot more extensive prototyping. Sometimes it was difficult for the visitors to understand where exactly to look and that was made the difference between a successful and less successful experience.

The staff was very frustrated by the headsets and all of the time management involved.

And as we move forward. We’re going to have to work really hard to provide them more whether it’s more headsets or provide more staff, which again can be an economic challenge.

And in the future, we need to think much more about providing other language because there should have been whether subtitles or other kind of verbal description.

For later to access and related to visitors who spoke other languages. When asked what skill sets we think staff members should have to facilitate these kind of experiences they recommend patience. Patience, patience.

superior customer service also be tech savvy. But in addition, have an educational bent because providing broader context to the experience we definitely have helped, given how long folks were waiting

And most of all the staff identified that it’s somewhat ironic that an experience about inclusion and diversity is not very inclusive, in terms of the visitors, the number of visitors who are able to experience it. And so that’s something we definitely need to think about in the future.

Thank you.

Robin White Owen: Thank you. Elaine, that was illuminating really really excellent. And now we’re going to hear from

Michael Haley Goldman, who is going to talk about an AR experience research project at at the US Holocaust Museum.

unmute yourself, Michael.

Don’t forget to unmute yourself.

Michael Haley Goldman: Very slow. Sorry about that. My, my apologies. I’m Michael Haley Goldman, I’m from the Holocaust Museum in Washington and

Good to be with you all today I’m going to talk and probably very quickly about an augmented reality project that we’ve been doing. It’s really something we’ve been doing over the course of years.

Partially a luxury that I have that I don’t want to underestimate our team at the museum. It’s really here to try to figure out how do we think about new technologies, new techniques new approaches.

And how they can change what we are capable of doing in the museum. This is a particularly important in our main exhibition which is

25 years old and while it has gone through incremental changes through that whole time, we are undertaking the first revitalization of that.

That entire exhibit kind of all across the board. So this is really an important time for us to be thinking about different ways to approach things this augmented reality project that I’m going to talk about is

Something that takes place in this tower. So for those of you who are looking at the site or not looking at the slide. What you’re seeing is that space within our main exhibition

That it’s really four plus stories tall and all around the walls of that space you have photographs of individuals from a single community from I shocker. I should use depending on what language you want to go from and this space.

Is really central to the way people move through our entire exhibit the exhibit is something that’s linear everybody

In the exhibition has to travel through the space and they actually traveled through it twice. Once on the fourth floor, which is what you’re seeing here, which is why people are looking up.

At the sky. They can see skylights lighting the space.

But they also go down a level go through some of the most harrowing aspects of the history and then cross through that space again where they learn about the fate of this particular town.

The entire community was destroyed over the course of three days, the population was taken and shot.

Outside of the town. So it’s a very central space. It’s very iconic image for visitors. It’s also the first place that visitors.

will encounter the faces of the victims in a very direct way within the space. So using augmented reality, like a lot of technologies for our museum.

is complicated by the fact that we’re dealing with.

A History of genocide, we’re dealing with really serious subject matter. And so when we are experimenting with things we really feel like we have to get it right.

So that’s why we can do an augmented reality project for more than two years and build

Several different prototypes, we had the great advantage of using different technologies we have great work with guy to go. We also did a lot of work with HP reveal to create different types of prototypes within this space.

The experience itself. Why would it make sense to do augmented reality in this space. I already mentioned that we’re looking towards new possibilities.

The other thing about the space to keep in mind is that unlike most of our exhibit. If you’ve been there. Our exhibit space is incredibly dense with content there are

A lot of words. There are a lot of photographs. There are a lot of objects. There’s a lot of film throughout the entire space.

We are really often overwhelming in terms of the amount of content, we’re using. So using an augmented reality experience to put even more into that space.

seems questionable this space. However, this tower and the photograph, you’re seeing now is a young woman that was part of the testing that we did.

Where she’s using a phone and looking at photographs through augmented reality. You can see some of the photographs in the background. This is a space where it’s only the images. There’s a panel going into the space that tells you the history of the town. But a lot of our

A lot of our visitors really don’t even see that panel what they see is this sheer volume of faces within the space and

We realized that many of them have questions about who these people are, as individuals, what are their names, what happened to them. And that’s something that augmented reality could provide. And that’s what we wanted to explore

So I’m going to kind of skip through this a little bit. So I was going to show the augmented reality, but for time. I think I’m going to just talk about it a little bit.

What you would be able to see here is that it’s phone based augmented reality, whether we were using the guy to go or HP reveal solutions that we created.

It was basically as stripped down as possible. Again, in terms of keeping it simple for prototyping, but also in terms of being

respectful of the space we ended up really only using text and the final version of the prototype, although we did explore using video and audio in other places with it.

What it really only tells you is a little bit of a story for this particular individual.

It tells you that this was a rush on of the Jewish New Year photograph it had an inscription on the back which you’re able to read the text of

Which is something you don’t get normally in the tower and it tells you that this individual state is unknown, even though we suspect that she was killed during the the main killings in the town.

So what did we learn. I think this is what I’ve been trying to think what little time we have with you today to kind of get to there for big points. I really want to talk about their general

But there is a quick shout out to our colleagues here pick here and who led the second round of testing around the different prototypes. We had, and there’s a lot more that we can share. Once I lose the captain the screen. Sorry.

The one of the big things we learned is that we totally underestimated what we knew about the space.

Without augmented reality. So you can see in this photograph. This is a person looking up in the tower.

Their mouth is slowly open. They’re kind of overwhelmed by the space which is a normal response to it and something we wanted to preserve. We didn’t want augmented reality to overwhelm the experience of the space itself.

But it was about halfway through our prototyping process that we realized we were asking so many questions that people doing augmented reality.

That for comparison, we should know a lot more about what people were feeling and experiencing when they walked in, without augmented reality.

We had had some evaluations that look at the space only an open a kind of an overview sense

And when we learned wasn’t a surprise, but it really deep into our thinking about the augmented reality people walking into the space they understood these people to be victims, although they often didn’t really understand how they died.

They also made personal connections to these individuals, even without more of their story president, and that was based off of just

Quick connections to thinking about these people as people being like them photographs that were familiar is family photographs in a concept in a conceptual way.

Or just noticing that people had children that they could relate to, or that if it was a youth, they might notice that was a youth group that they were seeing photographs off.

And that personal connection was strong, which meant that we really wanted to think about how to strengthen that connection and change that connection without changing the basic narrative of the space.

Another thing that we we were definitely not looking at we underestimated the space itself physically with augmented reality.

So what you’re looking at now is a picture from the lower floor, the third floor, looking up at the Tower and as you can see the bridge that you walk across on the fourth floor.

Is relatively narrow compared to the walls of the space of the tower.

So when you’re walking across that bridge. It’s an aerospace, it turns out that with augmented reality people slow down and they look around, which is what we want.

But that totally gums up the bridge and as I mentioned earlier, everybody in the exhibition has to get across that bridge to get to the next floor of the exhibition space.

So all using the augmented reality on the fourth floor was a big mistake. And we eventually moved our prototypes and create a new prototypes to work on the third floor, which I’ll show you now.

Third floor where there’s a lot more space to move around, it’s wider.

And this photograph is interesting on two points. One, you can see people doing strange things like sitting down to take photographs or taking photographs of their friends, taking photographs

This is fairly normal behavior in the space, but there’s spread out more. And there’s a the ability to get by. If you’re coming by with a group

The other thing that’s important to note is that people are already using their phones in the space, even without augmented reality. So we’re not adding

Anything or changing anything there.

So things we’ve missed so far we overestimated our understanding of the space without augmented reality we overestimated the change to the space created by augmented reality and we, in some sense,

overestimated. How hard it would be to get phones into the hands of our visitors. This is a photograph again during testing. This is for people crowded together using different phones that we’ve given them.

We do believe that we would like to use phones that are provided by the museum for augmented reality.

Because we wouldn’t want to make sure that a lot of people do have the opportunity to see this as Elaine mentioned, if we

Really want large numbers of people to be able to use this kind of experience, we are going to need to make sure that we don’t rely on people downloading things to their own devices. However, with Copa Nike and we’re starting to question that decision. Nonetheless, with this really demanded with staff something else will. And also related to in many different ways.

That it takes a lot of staff time to get these things into the hands of our visitors to get them to know how to use it and then to click the the phones at the end. And while we expected that to take a lot of time we really had to rely on a lot of

And substance volunteer time from staff crossings tuition to test these prototypes with our visitors. This is something we’re working out now is we’re looking at turning this experience into a full scale.

A better reality part of this exhibit that’s what we’re working on as an institution at the moment. How will handle that is something we can talk about later.

Finally, something that wasn’t a mistake, but it was something that we probably underestimated was that our visitors were a huge part in how we develop these prototypes.

We worked with visitors from the very beginning, in terms of asking lots of questions tracking visitors in terms of the space and how they used it.

Both with AR and without AR and that had a huge impact on the way this prototype developed in terms of what questions we answered in terms of what kind of material what’s right for the visitors and we really couldn’t couldn’t have

Gone wrong with doing that. That was really an important part

Of the experience. We also ran a couple of workshops with youth groups that are part of the museum to think about how they would approach a are in the museum space all of this built into prototypes that really total some awful lot.

And that left us at the point where we are today. We were quite literally this afternoon, sending out materials to vendors that might be working with us.

To take this prototype augmented reality that we’ve done with hundreds of hundreds of people and turn it into something that’s really an available part of the museum, of course.

best laid plans. We didn’t account for coven 19 and they’re two lessons there. I think that are really important. This last picture is down on the lower floor.

Where one visitor is creating their neck to look up at these rows and rows of photographs

Above them. This is never what it’s like in that space. During our busy season, it’s still very, very busy here.

We don’t know how coven 19 is going to change the experience of people in our exhibits in general. So we’re going to have to continue to work with our visitors, so that we can figure out the best way to deliver

This kind of experience that is feel safe is safe.

And maximizes the kind of understanding of the tower that we can. The last thing to note is we don’t know whether all handout devices in the same way. We don’t know if that’s what people are going to want

And we’re going to have to be adaptable and continue to be creative and how we come up with solutions as we go forward. So I’m going to pass this on, I believe, to Sylvia

Silvina Fernandez-Duque: Thank you.

So I am Sylvie enough Fernandez, UK, and I work with Michael

And another project that we tackled was about virtual reality and, you know, this, this, what I’m going to talk about is, you know, just a prototype and experiment as we ventured into this sort of new territory on virtual reality.

We started thinking about it. A few years ago, exploring and learning about virtual reality and trying to think about ways to apply the power of immersion and sense of presence to the history of the Holocaust.

When you think about virtual reality and the Holocaust. A lot of times you’ve jumped to perhaps sensational ideas.

About visualizing the extermination camps and things like that. And we absolutely did not want

To explore any of that. It doesn’t make sense on many levels. We wanted to see how we could use virtual reality in a way that would be respectful of the history and also offer a meaningful learning experience.

And we thought about how we could expand on stories and objects that were in our permanent

Exhibition, but perhaps didn’t lend themselves to an immediate resonance with visitors. So after talking a lot about many different ideas we landed on prototyping a VR experience around an object that we call the milk can which you see here.

Could you hit the next slide please.

And here’s the milk can in the permanent exhibition this object represents an incredibly powerful story about Jewish resistance in the Warsaw Ghetto.

A Jewish historian and manual renewal bloom who lived in Warsaw.

Understood that if the Jews in the ghetto didn’t document what the what was happening to them in real time that their story would be told by the Nazis. So he called together a group of about 60 people

And gave them all the tasks to document what they were experiencing and the documents they collected were put into containers, including this milk can and

They were buried underground and they did all of this in secret and at great risk to their lives. There were three collections that were buried at three different moments during the ghettos existence.

When we three members of this group of 60 survived the Holocaust. Next slide please. And the documents contained

In the archive include letters, diaries photographs posters underground newspapers, all sorts of material that described their life in this particular moment in history.

And they are a very rich source of primary documents. So we decided to try to create an experience that would help visitors connect with the story of Jewish resistance and give more context to this very important and meaningful object in the exhibition. Next slide.

All

creative projects start with a lot of post it notes and we did use a lot of posted notes.

So for the creation of this VR experience. We decided to partner with a production company that could collaborate with us and we set up a two week residency at the museum.

Where the technical team would be on site and work with the content and research team to build this virtual reality experience.

We ended up creating three virtual spaces related to the story of wrinkle bloom and the archive.

That visitors could explore and would serve to test different approaches to the story and interactivity. This was the first prototype that we hope to learn from not a complete production.

The technical team did a lot of prep work before they came on site. And then once they were at the museum. We talked again about what we were trying to achieve with this experience.

What we were trying to test out what store. We wanted to tell. We had a lot of conversations to make sure we were all on the same page. And after a day or two, we had something that we could put on the floor and test with visitors. Next slide.

Part of our approach was to have an iterative design process, which included testing throughout the development of the experience. So we put things in front of people.

That were very sketchy. And we had to be comfortable with that because we wanted to be able to get things right. As we progress through the build of the VR experience.

Next slide. There are two main spaces and this VR experience. One of them is wrangle blooms office and you can walk around the office and interact with documents and photographs

And if you pick up a document you hear a translation of what is written.

It’s an undirected space. So you can spend as much time in there as you want. And when you are ready. There’s a door through which you transition to the next space.

After each person completed their experience and came out of the VR headset.

We asked some questions. And this was a really important part of the process, being able to talk to visitors asked some questions, not only about the sort of experience they had in terms of

Learning and their impressions, but also how the technical side was working how intuitive or not we’re certain interactive elements and gestures. Next slide.

Actually know what push ahead. Next slide. So from wrangle blooms office the next space to experience is in a courtyard this experience is different.

And that you can still walk around and explore the space, but it also unfolds in front of you in a more linear way.

There’s a voiceover narration that plays automatically and describes the scene around you. There was a reveal at the end.

And there isn’t as much interactivity is in the office space. It’s a more emotional scene as well because of the story that’s being told here.

It depicts the aftermath of a deportation where thousands of people were rounded up and sent to their deaths and many people said that this scene was

The most memorable for them. And we think part of the reason is because of the combination of the powerful story.

Plus the production values of the audio and visual elements. I think that is part of the power of VR is the ability to combine a spatial environment with sound and storytelling that creates a unique and different experience for people

Next slide.

After analyzing all the data we collected from the interviews, we learned that

97% of visitors said that they had an enhanced learning experience, which means that the experience sparked curiosity.

Presented new perspectives had an effective impact or simply offered something different. And I just want to share. Well, just in the interest of time, I’ll just share one quote

From a visitor describing how the VR experience felt different from other ways of learning about history. This person said

Expected something boring based on videos elsewhere in the museum, but found this very interactive and engaging

So as I wrap up, I just want to mention a few other things that came out of this view our prototype most important was the response that we got from both visitors and staff saying that this was a very respectful way to explore the history of the Holocaust.

Internal buy in from staff was really important for us because they are our collaborators on all of these types of projects.

The expertise of our colleagues on the history on the objects on the pedagogy is really important for us and I think having this two week period where staff could come and try it out and then come back and see how it evolved worked really well.

In creating these computer generated spaces. There’s also a lot of interpretation. A lot of decisions that you have to make and building it out.

As this particular project was a first prototype. We use assets that were readily available and some visitors walked away with the impression that what they were looking at was an accurate representation

Of a historical space and that was not necessarily the case some staff even commented done commented on wrinkle blooms office saying that

They didn’t think it would have been as nice as what we created

So an interesting question for us moving forward, would be to address how to be more transparent about the decisions we made and how we know what we know and how we built. What we built, especially in the early prototype stages.

And the last thing I will mention is that we tested this on site at the museum. So most of the visitors that experience the VR prototype had already been through.

The exhibition, the permanent exhibition and had some kind of context, context for the VR experience.

And something we’re all thinking about right now is creating learning experiences.

For visitors that are not on site. And what does that mean to take something out of a certain context, what do you have to build into the experience to compensate for the fact that you are not within your walls. So I’m going to leave it there and turn it over to Robin. Thank you.

Robin White Owen: So thank you so, so the project that I’m going to talk about is the only one that’s actually off site.

It’s a virtual tour of an exhibition called we are nature and

We’re it seemed important to talk about virtual tours, because they are sort of everybody’s go to idea of what’s possible and a great idea to do

And there are many reasons why virtual tours of museum exhibition seem like a good idea.

In August of 2018 the Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburgh invited media combo down to scan and capture their, their exhibition. We are nature living in the Anthropocene and this was just a couple of days before it closed and they had very clear goals.

Why they wanted us to do and

Let’s see, Michael. Can you the next slide please.

So those goals included. They wanted to be able to advance their strategic plan by convincing funders to support an expanded version of this exhibition exhibition. We are now living in the Anthropocene was about

The impact of climate change and how much humans are involved in climate change.

They also wanted to extend the access to the exhibition beyond the short lifespan 10 month one

They wanted to demonstrate to museum peers, a compelling and realistic experience of how this topic could be presented their institution’s and do that with an easily accessible.

weblink or a download from the Oculus Go App Store. They also wanted to have an archive. So the work is available indefinitely to scholars and others, and also for education purposes because it’s a great distance learning school tool for educators in school.

My partner and I, we had different goals for this project we were excited about possibly do about doing this because we love the idea of extending the museum experience into the virtual realm.

Making it possible for people to take advantage of that sense of presence that VR provides so that they would feel like they were really there. We were hoping to get as close to that as possible.

Can I, the next slide please.

So from the beginning of the project. We knew that we were intending to produce an audio tour and

The audio tour.

Was a very simple affair really initially we didn’t write an original script. We basically evaluated.

Labels the exhibit labels and figured out how we could adapt them slightly and record them for a tour we did this in conjunction with Becca Shrek and gas, who was the exhibition experience designer in charge of the project.

We also knew that there was going to be a custom user experience and user interface which was designed by our partner on this project guide ego and you can see in these images at every stop. There are many interpretive assets. There’s over 40 audio stops.

There’s over 100 pop up labels.

There’s videos that were in the exhibition and there’s also a couple of simple interactive that were built into the to the tour.

So, where, where people could where visitors on the tour could give their opinions about climate change.

We also knew that there was going to be both a screen based experience, which is the stills, are you looking from that and also a VR headset experience.

But even with all of this additional bespoke user friendly interpretation, the experience did not meet our goals of making visitors feel like they were really there.

So what we did what we could which was with the audio tour we added room tone, which is, you know, the white sort of white noise that generally exists in every live space.

So that the whole experience would feel like you were in a physical space and then we added

Sound effects to the audio stops to try and emphasize what the guide was saying and help people to have a more sensory experience of what they were looking at

So they could hear traffic on city streets ocean waves. The copper calls sound of heavy machinery, you know, things like things like that.

We also had not anticipated how uncomfortable it was going to be in this environment to sit and read introductory wall text that sets up the whole exhibition

So we quickly came up with a way to produce an introductory video very simply. Again, just using the narrator recording the wall text, but then putting essentially a slideshow.

Of images underneath it and so that so that people would would would again just sit through this introduction and be able to get a fuller

Well, just be ready then to know what they were supposed to do what they were going to be looking for what the exhibition was about

Another helpful feature that guy to go creative was a highlights only tour. So if you didn’t want to have to figure out how the navigation worked. You could just click

You know, highlights tour and then just be taken through a series of the exhibits.

The next slide please. So in the end, the results were good. We’ve gotten really great feedback.

It’s fun to go through the exhibition on screen. And it’s really much more engaging in a VR headset. So where we are with this idea is that with all of this custom stuff. If we are nature is like a minimum viable product of a virtual museum tour.

Where did we learn from producing it. Some of you will already know this, but basically that a street type a street view type tour, which is

What is most commonly put out there by museums is a kind of exhibition that produces a document which is useful, but it’s not really attractive.

To an audience, looking for an engaging museum experience and which is, which was a point that was made by museum museum hack blog post last month where they did a look at Google Trends.

And notice that interest in virtual tours peaked very quickly after the shutdown really spiked high

And then when links to virtual tours were widely promoted and people were checking all these things out, but then they nosedived after a few days to basically their pre shutdown numbers because most of them are just this street view type of experience and they’re just not that interesting.

They, they serve a purpose. They are a document that can be used as a resource for educators who then we’ll add their own interpretation lesson plans, etc. On to them.

They are an archive of an exhibition, but they’re not designed to inspire or capture the imagination of an audience. So to do that need to create more ambience and more interpretation.

enhancements that we made it be that we made added you know they made a big difference. But the next time we would like to. We would, you know, you’d want to write a script that was more conversational

So the virtual visitor quick feel like there was a friend of the curator really taking them around, instead of

Yeah, instead of essentially reading labels and we also would definitely embellish the soundscape to make that

To make the whole experience feel more populated because museum going even if you’re by yourself, you’re not the only person in the gallery.

And we would definitely designed more ways for it to be interactive and for people to engage in the exhibition itself. I mean, ultimately, the most realistic experience would be will be fully social but that raises the cost and complexity of the project.

So for now, we would really just be focusing on how to make 360 panorama tours more fun and more engaging to take

Looking at looking ahead, I’d say, what we have is the foundation on which to build more immersive interactive exhibition experiences.

That not only document but also increase the return on investment involved in funding researching curating designing and producing the exhibition

So that they can provide as much of a sense of being there as possible without doing a complete CGI experience like the kind of experience that Selena was talking about or physically being there.

And so now I think we’re going to look at some questions.

Open it up to

Some conversations

And actually, Michael, would you just come back to that for a second. I’m sorry.

That last screen.

If anyone is interested, this is these are the URLs for where you can look at the screen based version on guiding us blog and the Oculus go stories where you can download the app itself.

Thank you.

Okay. So going to the questions.

Silvina Fernandez-Duque: We do have one question actually FOR YOU. Robin, as you just wrapped up asking what what technology. Did you need for creating this

Robin White Owen: Okay, so we we we used okay so many people are familiar with a system called matter port or history view.

We used, which was a company at the time that was a competitor of theirs, and there they don’t they don’t do this anymore. But they, they had a very similar kind of system.

And the reason that we didn’t go with history view and matter port was because we thought that the Carnegie Museum would want to hold on to their own IP and

They, they own it. So the app is a standalone app that you can buy in the store or download for free. Actually, I’m sorry. It’s not. It’s doesn’t cost anything. And the, the web experience is hosted on a website.

But Carnegie retains their intellectual property and I know with matter port that is not the case.

And a lot of museums use it and they don’t seem to have a problem with that, but at the time we did this.

We thought that might be a concern, which is one of the reasons we didn’t go. And also, we wanted to be able to customize the user experience. And when you go there, you’ll see there’s a you know it’s it’s far beyond what you can what what typically comes with the program.

Silvina Fernandez-Duque: So let’s see. There’s also a question which I I can answer. And anybody who on the panel who has done a VR experience can also answer the question is how do you keep

Visitor safe within the VR experience or guardrails facilitation. So for the prototype that we built out there. We were in a fairly large.

Room where people could wander around but within the experience itself, there would be sort of visual cues to let you know.

When you were, you know, approaching a wall or something like that. And there were always people in the room. There were several facilitators, the tech team was was all there. So there were there were always people that were monitoring and facilitating you know setting people up.

You know, helping take off the headset, you know, the experience that we had also had a headset plus two.

handheld devices. So, so there was a lot of facilitation.

For that what that would look like in a full scale, you know, final production environment. I don’t know what we’d have to test out along the way to to kind of figure out what the best setup would be, I don’t know if anybody else wants to share any of their experiences about that.

Robin White Owen: Well, we are so ours was off site. So we didn’t, we didn’t really have any any issues.

Elaine Charnov: I mean the one other thing I will add. So with AR AR mixed reality.

It’s, it’s still demanded the same kind of keeping people separated so that they wouldn’t be likely to bump into each other because even though they were wearing headsets and could see through them.

It’s still such a different experience physical visual experience that we needed to err on the side of caution that that is part of why so few people could be pushed through the experience at a given time.

Robin White Owen: Someone asked for the Oculus link. And I’m just going to put that in the chat.

Silvina Fernandez-Duque: We have a question.

From Susan, how do you go about making a are more interactive.

If anybody wants to take that on.

Michael Haley Goldman: Yeah, it’s interesting, I think, from our point of view.

It’s hard for me to imagine very, very interactive AR with our content to immediately I’m probably I’m not being too imaginative, but we’re really trying to make sure that

We move slowly into the way that we use these things that fits something that was also a memorial space so interactivity hasn’t been top of my list for the our project.

The VR project as a whole different thing that someone is talking about prayer. We haven’t really looked at that line. I don’t know if you’re

Looking at interactivity.

Elaine Charnov: Um, you know, it is the depth of experience is challenging. We are looking at it in terms of our scanning project and imagining using it, you know, on the flight deck, being able to

Visual to see aircraft flying off the deck is you’re standing there. So that’s some level, but that gets back to some of the other chat, which is asking about

You know, in using your personal devices. How successful is that and again it’s layer after layer of complication because

Given that everyone has a different quality of phones. What kind of AR experience might they be getting. So we’re seeking excellence and they might be getting mediocrity, just because we’re trying to create dynamism and immersive, but it doesn’t work on, you know, on their personal devices.

Robin White Owen: We had a question of

That about 20 minutes ago, which has to do with AR D at the Holocaust Museum, and that was to say, Could you specify where visitors can learn about the AR experience admission desk exhibition itself.

Yeah.

Michael Haley Goldman: Unfortunately there is nowhere to learn about it right now. So the most recent version of the prototype, so to prototype things we use

Whatever kind of technology we can use relatively easily and quickly and inexpensively.

And the final version of the prototype done on the lower level was using HP reveal which still exists, although

has greatly restricted what you’re able to do in it. We used it because it was free and something we could be fairly creative with and come up with a variety of different solutions.

So when that changed it became unavailable to anyone in the institution at this point in time we are, as I mentioned, very, very briefly, we are in the process of going to a more complete solution that we will

invest money into based on what we’ve learned so far. So we are hoping that that will kick off in the fall and be available sometime in the new year.

Robin White Owen: And there are also couple of questions about

It expense of some of these projects.

There’s one from Adam, how viable. Do you think it is for smaller museums or historical homes to utilize this type of technology.

Is this an equipment engagement option that is really only viable for medium to large institutions.

So I can say that from the, from the concept, the virtual tour is not necessarily an expensive project to undertake if you’re if it’s you’re doing this kind of three and 360 degree panoramic photos.

That in itself doesn’t. In fact, you can do that on history VR for free.

The problem is that unless you’re willing to provide some kinds of interpretation and augmentation and enhancement. It’s by itself. It’s not really an interesting experience. So depending on what kind of assets you have access to

You know, you can definitely augmented. I mean, that’s essentially what we did for the Carnegie Museum of Natural History, for we are nature.

It still costs five figures, but you’re not looking at six figures and you’re not looking at

10s of thousands of dollars. You know, I’m not really sure about inexpensively producing our but I know, I know. It’s possible.

That’s a little bit helpful.

Michael Haley Goldman: And what I’ll say in terms of this. I mean, I think there are real costs associated with this, what we’ve been able to do was learn a lot about it, without going to those costs. And so we will be spending real money on the next version of the hour that we are creating

But with relatively inexpensive tools, we were able to get him and some in kind gifts and, you know, other pieces like that, we were able to get an incredible amount of experience with AR with our content and our visitors so

It’s complicated. And although theoretically, it’s going to be coming down and cost right that’s what we’ve been seeing with a lot of these technologies. It’s why we’re in these technologies. Right. I mean, the move to the Oculus Rift.

And the vibe and things like that brought VR to be much more accessible within a museum that had happened before I can do that existed for a long time before that. So hopefully that these technology costs will keep coming down to the more experienced we have now, the better.

You know, and I’ll just add our project was mightily expensive, we never would have done it had partners, not come to us, but the one seed it did plant is starting to think about if there were partnerships, for example.

Elaine Charnov: Across you know space and science centers, because to some extent, you could be dealing with generalized themes and then be able to play them out.

At different places, in contrast to Holocaust Museum where you’re dealing with very, very sort of specific interpretation and storylines.

So I wonder as we move forward. Might it be possible to explore, you know, business models where groups will collectively work together. But that still doesn’t account for the staff, the intensive staff needs and those costs can

Be equal and sometimes surpass the project itself but but I think there’s definitely a lot of exploration

Robin White Owen: There’s a question here from Max Linux. How do you bring VR and AR to people’s comes when not everyone is tech savvy or has access to the right equipment so VR and AR ARE BOTH available as web based experiences.

And when people are designing them. Now there, it’s sort it’s understood. I think that you need to make them.

device agnostic, in a way, obviously, on the web, it’s a screen based experience. SO IT’S NOT as immersive, but that doesn’t mean that

You can’t still have that experience obviously and and when it’s where they are. It’s a phone based or tablet based experience obviously also

There’s another question here.

With they are being used by guests on their phones if they are using their own personal devices. Did you have issues with downloading any apps needed or work QR codes needed. I don’t think any of the AR experiences that we’ve talked about our were available on on people’s personal devices.

Michael Haley Goldman: They were not. Yeah.

Robin White Owen: Let’s see, what else do we have Ah good museums and historical centers benefit more

From in-house AR VR digital teams or is it more beneficial to partner with third party companies.

I think everyone can answer this, but I would say that, unless you’re planning to do a lot of AR and VR, it’s probably not worth, you know, bringing somebody in house or multiple people in house to build those those experiences.

from a cost perspective.

Michael Haley Goldman: Agree.

You know we did experimentation on our own. But now that we’re turning this into a full fledged thing we are looking to the outside expertise.

Silvina Fernandez-Duque: Yeah I would echo that, I would say it’s really important to sort of have a handle on what it is a what it is you want to do, and also some sort of level of technical literacy and finding the right partner to help you to help you build it. I think this is really important.

Robin White Owen: I also think it’s reasonable to expect the people you talk to, to give you advice about whether AR and VR are the best things are the best ways for you to get across, whatever the story is that you want to tell because they’re not always, you know, and very often.

When you want to to do can be accomplished with other similar technologies or technologies that you have a knowledge of and he switches for in house. So I think that would be something you would definitely want to talk to any potential partner about

With there’s two questions left and one of them. I think we could answer, which is how long did it take from concept to completion to create these projects.

I would say that depends on, from my perspective, it depends on the client. You know, it depends on

How many other things, the client has going on and how much attention, they can pay to this and how quickly they can they can respond because then are usually they can usually move, you know, fairly fast. I don’t know. What about you guys. You would be the event.

Elaine Charnov: So with our project. It was eight months from conceptualization to staging it. And again, it was only because there were a lot of dedicated external teams involved but but remember for a 10 minute experience eight full months. That’s quite something. So, you know, very heavy lift.

Robin White Owen: Yeah, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to imply that somehow there was something wrong with my kids. I know that didn’t come across really right. You know, it’s just that.

I think our project also took a long time, not because it was as complicated as yours by any stretch of the imagination, but because you know the museum had a lot of other things going on and things came up. And so we we just have to be patient.

Michael Haley Goldman: You know, and I think that the projects were describing our kind of perpetual prototype with we’re pretty

Fortunate that we’re allowed to prototype for long periods of time in the first place I realized that does not the case, and most institutions.

And we would prototype forever for allowed to. Because really we’re about learning how these experiences happen and what can we find out about them. So I don’t know that we have a good estimate

Robin White Owen: I see that we’re at time. So we probably need to

Take it off here. But yeah, thank you very much for, for coming. I hope this was instructive.

Thanks, everybody. Yeah.

Thank you.

Bye.

AAM Member-Only Content

AAM Members get exclusive access to premium digital content including:

  • Featured articles from Museum magazine
  • Access to more than 1,500 resource listings from the Resource Center
  • Tools, reports, and templates for equipping your work in museums
Log In

We're Sorry

Your current membership level does not allow you to access this content.

Upgrade Your Membership

Comments

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Subscribe to Field Notes!

Packed with stories and insights for museum people, Field Notes is delivered to your inbox every Monday. Once you've completed the form below, confirm your subscription in the email sent to you.

If you are a current AAM member, please sign-up using the email address associated with your account.

Are you a museum professional?

Are you a current AAM member?

Success! Now check your email to confirm your subscription, and please add communications@aam-us.org to your safe sender list.