Virtual Reality at the Australian Museum

Today our museums and the digital subject introduced us to some interesting concepts. We started this morning with a wonderful lecture by Madeleine Borthwick, a designer who works for the company Kiss the Frog. They are a Netherlands-based company that has worked on some very interesting digital projects around the world. Check them out here:

http://www.kissthefrog.nl/

I am particularly in awe of the work they have done at the National Maritime Museum in Amsterdam. I first visited this museum in 2013 and again in 2015. I do remember the technology implemented in the spaces to be quite advanced and interactive. There was one particular section of the Golden Age exhibition where you could place objects on a table to activate particular stories. It worked really well until someone came along and placed an object down before the previous story had ended. Pretty sure the tourists who came to the table after me temporarily broke the system.

After the lecture we headed to the Australian Museum to check out their new virtual reality (VR) show. It was great hearing from members of the digital team at the museum. What was very clear is that although digital endeavours can be problematic, they are worth pursuing. I think the marriage between museums and technology can yield some absolutely amazing results.

Take Rijsstudio by the Rijksmsueum (https://www.rijksmuseum.nl/en). If you have no idea what this is or what it does I’ll completely oversimplify it by saying it offers a very unique opportunity to interact with the collection.

Back to the Australian Museum. I won’t talk about the museum as a whole because we had just under an hour to walk around and see the exhibitions. I didn’t spend enough time in one place to gain a real sense of it. What I will discuss is the VR David Attenborough film on the Great Barrier Reef (GBR).

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I really had no idea what to expect with this film. You wear a pretty clunky goggle-like device and headphones. The movie itself was quite interesting focusing on the GBR  and the research that is occurring on Lizard Island. There were times when you could see the GBR wherever you turned. It was literally a 360 degree film which was absolutely immersive. The actual technology itself has a fair way to go but I think once it has been tweaked, it could lead to some amazing opportunities.

A tiny section of the film showed a 360 degree view of space. I cannot wait until planetariums around the world can offer this kind of VR experience. Especially thinking of the films I saw at the Kennedy Space Center in Orlando. It is the kind of museum that would greatly benefit from this technology!

I am definitely still getting used to this level of technology in a museum. I think as long as the digital enhances the tangible and offers another layer of interaction it will be successful. Nothing beats the real thing, but, I think people know this. I have never heard anyone say I would be happy for all museums to just be virtual and nothing more. That’s not going to happen. Instead, I think the digital will grow from what we already have and, hopefully, offer new and exciting experiences for visitors.

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