The Science Museum Group and Imperial War Museums recently signed a Memorandum of Agreement (MoA) with the Thailand-based developer Perception Codes to create holographic exhibitions that will bring 3D museum artefacts into schools and homes.
Museums Journal spoke to Perception Codes founder and CEO Sirisilp Kongsilp about the potential that this emerging technology, which has been termed Desktop augmented reality (AR), could hold for museums.
What makes Desktop AR different from other immersive technologies?
Although virtual reality (VR) and AR headsets can offer an immersive experience, they require expensive hardware, which hinder the mass adoption of the technology. Mobile AR technology may be easily accessible, but it cannot offer an immersive experience as it is just a flat 2D animation overlaid on a mobile phone display. This is why we have created a new kind of AR called Desktop AR. This proprietary technology produces an immersive experience by using head-tracking 3D image technologies, and it technology requires no new hardware. It uses everyday devices such as red/blue glasses, computers and ordinary webcams.
Can you tell us more about the agreement you've signed with Imperial War Museums and the Science Museum Group?
We are very excited about the MOA with the museum as this is a great opportunity for us to use our technology to help democratise the museum experience. Perception will create the experiences using the museums’ content using Desktop AR technology. This will be launched and distributed initially to 20,000 students across the UK and Thailand as part of their learning tools. This holographic exhibition can enable students all around the world, including students in third world countries such as Thailand, to access world class museums content in a more immersive way, which can ultimately reduce the gap in education inequality.
What do you hope the partnership will achieve?
Through this partnership, we aim to revolutionise the arts and culture industry. From the Covid-19 pandemic, it has become clear that the museum sector needs to have a technological shift to retain and reach audience. Although VR/AR technology has been used in museums to engage audiences pre-Covid, such technology has yet to reach a critical mass. This is due to costs, usability and in some cases, the technology needing to be used onsite at museums.
Through this partnership, we hope that we can enable museums to reach a much bigger audience as the technology has an extremely low barrier to entry. Audiences can participate in the holo-exhibition in their own home using their everyday laptop. With the mass adoption of the holo-exhibition, we hope that we can showcase the digital exhibition of the future and become a de facto platform for museum exhibitions. As for museums, reaching wider audience will increase engagement and ultimately has the potential to bring in additional revenue to the museum sector.
What excites you most about the potential that holographic technology holds for museum collections?
What really excites us is the fact that Desktop AR technology can become part of preserving human history. The future of museum displays will be in digital as well as physical form. Desktop AR technology can drive the adoption of digital museums by bringing them to everyone’s home. Our mission is to help preserving human legacy and what can be a better way than having an immersive experience at home.
The technology can turn an everyday computer into an immersive volumetric display, giving an illusion that there is a physical object floating in front of users. With the low entry barrier, this means that museum collections can be displayed anywhere in the world. It opens up many opportunities for museums to have new ways of interacting and reaching their target audience.
What do museums need to know about working with Desktop AR?
There is no additional setup required for museums to work with the Desktop AR. Currently, museums already digitise their collections, and this content can be readily used with the platform. The Holo-Exhibition hopes to be the main platform for holographic exhibitions in the future, where users can have mixed reality experience at home.
Where do you see this emerging field of technology in 10 years' time?
Future museum exhibitions will be the mixture between on-site and at home. We see that the engagement of museums with the public will be even stronger in the future from this technology as we enable museums’ content to reach everyone. It is possible that we will see exhibitions everywhere because of the ease of access through digitised content. People can experience museums’ collections as if they are at the actual museum anywhere and anytime. We also believe that the new form of exhibitions will emerge where we see more collaboration between museums through the use of the holo-exhibition platform.
What other impacts might this technology have?
We are passionate about equality of opportunity in education. We believe that the holo-exhibition can be part of this, where underprivileged students can experience collections from the world’s top museums as if they are there themselves. So we think that with this new kind of engagement with audiences, museums will be a crucial part in learning materials for our youth. Our company also provide an educational license for free so students can use our software development kit to develop their own holographic exhibitions if they wish.