The End Of Museums As We Know It

As the light at the end of the (summer vacation) tunnel is almost insight, let me ask you a reflective question:

Where do kids prefer to be on a summer day:

(a) Museums

(b) Theme parks

(c) Staying at home and playing video games

Any volunteers for (a) ?…

What if you could combine all three into one?

What if you could transform learning about cultures, art, science, history – into a fun experience for kids? What if museums were as much fun as outdoor adventures and video games combined?

This fantasy is becoming a reality thanks to efforts by pioneers around the world.

Here are my picks of the 4 5 best augmented reality tours that are reinventing museums:

1. Lifeplus in Pompei

Pompei Ladies in an afternoon promenade in front of your eyes

Breathing new life into the ruined streets of Pompei

Visitors stroll in the real streets of Pompei, while watching thru their glasses, virtual scenes of city natives living their lives as if it’s 79 AD, minutes before the eruption of Vesuvius.

This EU funded project was lead by MIRALab – university of Geneva in 2004. See more at Lifeplus.

2. DNP-Louvre Museum lab

A behind the scenes look at exhibits

A mobile device with live video, shows on the display virtual objects such as a balloon that guides visitors through the exhibits. The climax of this tour arrives (1:37) when shards of an antique Islamic platter are virtually reconstructed to create the real platter.

Kudos to Metaio who developed the experience for DNP-Louvre Museum Lab in Tokyo, though they should try trimming the bulky device…

See more at DNP-Louvre Museum lab in Tokyo

3. Mobile Augmented Reality Quest (MARQ) –         Expedition Schatzsuche

Treasure hunt in a museum (in Austria)

A team oriented game where museum visitors play the role of investigators required to solve 3d virtual puzzles surrounding exhibits. Successful completion of puzzles reveal further steps of the story.

Beyond the new type of interaction with museum exhibits, MARQ introduces multi user collaboration: collected virtual items can be shared between groups, and “guided tour replays” can be viewed at any time – on the Gizmondo (RIP) gaming device.

This novice approach to experiencing Museum exhibits was developed by the Graz University team in Vienna, led by Daniel Wagner and Dieter Schmalstieg. It was shot at the Kärner Landesmuseum in Klagenfurt/Carinthia.

See more about MARQ at Studierstube

And here is an older project from the same team: Enigma Rally at the Vienna Technical Museum.

4. Rome Reborn, now Augmented

Undo the barbarians

Rome Reborn is the largest computer simulation of an ancient city. Cool. But what Fraunhofer (Institute for Computer Graphics Research) has done with it is way cool: walk among the ruins of the Roman Forum and point your Vaio UMPC anywhere to see buildings being reconstructed.

See more about the technology used at InstantReality

5. Voices of Oakland

If a cemetery were a museum

Blair MacIntyre and his team at GA Tech have done the impossible: they have turned the Oakland cemetery in Atlanta to a visitor magnet – all thanks to an augmented reality tour which can be experienced on a cell phone. You have to see it to believe it.

Unfortunately, the cemetery was destroyed last year by a hurricane. So the students of subsequent years wont be able to keep playing with it.

6. Science Museum in Paris

Navigate Museums with AirTags

A new implementation by Tonchidot for La Villette Museum in Paris where visitors use AirTags provided by the Museum or by users to enrich their museum experience.
In the creators own words:

Sekai camera turns a museum into a “living” internet environment…The real world becomes “clickable”

7. Digital Binocular Station for Cultural Museums

A stationary Augmented Reality device developed by Mind Space Solutions. Because it is fixed to a single location, it allows the use photorealistic, cinema-quality visuals, and compensate for the lack of parallax by presenting everything in stereoscopic 3D.


What are the 10 ingredients to augment a museum tour?

  1. A practical augmented reality device (avoid backpacks and bulky displays) with visual tracking software
  2. High quality 3D models of exhibits, and how they looked and behaved in the past (and future?)
  3. A combination of learning and fun with a really really good story
  4. Breath life into inanimate objects
  5. Sprinkle some sound when necessary
  6. Incinerate verbose plaques; say what you have to say in 2 to 5
  7. Indoor tours are great; outdoor tours are even better
  8. Multi user interaction and collaboration
  9. Location based services, including (fun) navigation instructions
  10. Did I mention it has to be fun?
…and don’t forget to send the kids home with a souvenir DVD: “my augmented tour at the museum”

Didn’t make the list…

The following efforts didn’t make the list, mostly because they forgot ingredient #10…

Have you seen other augmented museum tours? Share your experiences!

15 Responses

  1. Some nice stuff :)
    Guess it will take this sort of stuff before it goes mainstream for personal use.

    A bit like the progression from videogame arcades to home game systems.

    Lifeplus in Pompei looks particularly good, shame theres no video, only the mock renders. (clearly too high res for any current HMD devices).

  2. Thanks Darkflame,
    Yes, these controlled environments offer an incubator like projects to bring augmented reality to the public.
    There is actually a behind-the-scenes video of LifePlus which can be viewed at:


  3. Thanks for the link, nice demo :)

  4. […] Miyashita and Peter Meier (Metaio) are on stage to present an exciting project that games alfresco covered in our Museum roundup: An Augmented Reality Museum Guide a result of a partnership between […]

  5. […] concepts focused on tourism have been thought of and implemented before: Museums apps, Wikitude, YDreams Sightseeing, Archeoguide, and many […]

  6. […] IKT- och tillgänglighetsprojekt "Bibliotek 2007""Expedition Schatzsuche" och Augmented Museum Tours Publicerat under rubrikerna: 05: Ljud- & audioguider, 06: Digitalguider & mobilt, 16: […]

  7. […] how about augmenting Museum experiences? Has anyone at Apple read our roundup of AR museum […]

  8. […] Games Alfresco blog has a good post with several other examples of Augmented Reality in Museums. […]

  9. […] …or a more elaborate project to revive Pompei […]

  10. Pity we did not have our contribution ready in time for this list: with more info at

  11. Some nice stuff there

  12. “Advantageously, the publish is truly the biggest on this valuable theme. I fit in along with your conclusions and will thirstily appear forward for your incoming updates.”

  13. Thanks for this very useful review !
    As our effort was one of the one that “didn’t make it” (International CIPA Symposium: Merging augmented reality based features in mobile multimedia museum guides) I would like to suggest a more recent reading on the final AR mobile tour delivered, published in ACM’s DIMEA 08 (Digital Interactive Media in Entertainment and Art).
    Damala, A., Cubaud, P., Bationo, A., Houlier, P., and Marchal, I. 2008. Bridging the gap between the digital and the physical: design and evaluation of a mobile augmented reality guide for the museum visit. In Proceedings of the 3rd international Conference on Digital interactive Media in Entertainment and Arts (Athens, Greece, September 10 – 12, 2008). DIMEA ’08, vol. 349. ACM, New York, NY, 120-127.

  14. Hey f885dx, very interesting post, it really got me thinking. Thank you. z4rxu

  15. A strong interesting posting which does make you think about the wider picture here. I concur with the preceeding opinion and despite the fact that I would consider myself somewhat less advanced in terms of awareness on the subject he evidently appreciates precisely what he is speaking about as do you.

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