The Detroit Institute of Arts will soon provide a mobile tour using augmented reality which for example will take a Mesopotamian relief grey to the naked eye and when viewed through Lumin will show the rich colors it used to be painted with in Detroit on Wednesday, Jan. 18, 2017. (Photo: Romain Blanquart, Detroit Free Press)
Technology, meet art.
The two collide at the Detroit Institute of Arts, which is the first museum in the world to provide a mobile tour using augmented reality. Called Lumin, a name derived from the Latin word for light, the mobile-phone-based platform was developed by the DIA in partnership with Google and mobile developer GuidiGo. A seven-stop tour will premiere to the public Wednesday for user feedback and testing.
Think Pokemon Go, but for the arts. Lumin is a tool to engage with the DIA’s collection in ways not previously possible. Visitors using mobile phones provided by the DIA will be guided through the museum — and get visual and audio extras that interact with specific physical spaces on the tour.
Designed for ages 8 and older, it can be especially useful for the younger generation, who will have a new bridge to old art. “This technology brings works of art to life,” said DIA director Salvador Salort-Pons. “It encourages visitors to look at works of art in the flesh.”
Take, for instance, a panel of Mesopotamian reliefs that are gray to the naked eye: When viewed through Lumin, they’re filled with rich, vivid colors. “You can see that they once were painted in the past,” said Salort-Pons. “It’s difficult to visualize that. The learning experience is immediate.”
Here’s how it works: Each DIA phone has Google Tango built in, which provides an augmented reality platform that doesn't need Wi-Fi or GPS. It then uses another platform, GuidiGO's AR Composer. “These technologies are motion-tracking, depth-sensing and area-learning,” said Tango senior product manager Justin Quimby.
The Detroit Institute of Arts will soon provide a mobile tour using augmented reality which for example will allow visitors to have an x-ray view of the skeleton of an Egyptian mummy when viewed through Lumin and understand how he might have died in Detroit on Wednesday, Jan. 18, 2017. (Photo: Romain Blanquart, Detroit Free Press)
Motion-tracking is the ability of the phone to know where it is as it moves through space. Visitors will hold out a Lenovo Phab2 Pro, an Android smartphone that has more sensors than a normal smartphone. “It uses a wide-angle camera to look at the environment to find features, like the intersection of a wall and the floor,” said Quimby. (That’s the depth-sensing part.) “The phone is then able to line up a digital map of the museum with the real world.”
As the phone continues to move through the environment, the third and final ingredient — area-learning — comes into play. It uses this to recognize a space it has mapped before and then incorporates the augmented reality content into the real world. Sounds complicated, but the whole process works fast and easy.
The phone gets going by localizing — recognizing exactly where it is — before loading up a 3D map of the precise point where you stand in the DIA, marked by a blue dot.
Visitors will see the numbers 1 through 7, which indicate the seven stops of the tour. Right now, they’re only on the first floor, but the program will eventually grow to incorporate multiple tours and upward of 20-25 stops throughout all three levels. Ideally, each tour will include 10 stops that can be swapped out, said DIA director of information technology Richard Scott. It will be especially helpful for temporary exhibits.
Detroit Institute of Arts Director of IT Richard Scott, left shows a group of children visiting the museum how visitors will soon be able to take a mobile tour using augmented reality which for example will allow visitors to have an x-ray view of the skeleton of an Egyptian mummy when viewed through Lumin and understand how he might have died in Detroit on Wednesday, Jan. 18, 2017. (Photo: Romain Blanquart, Detroit Free Press)
It’s easy to get lost in the DIA. But when you click on the first stop, the Babylonian Empire, a set of dots connects a path right on your screen. This is called wayfinding. “These buildings are very old and have had many additions over the years,” said Salort-Pons. “Sometimes it’s difficult for visitors to know where they are, how to move from point A to point B. This technology allows 3D mapping so you can actually walk the building and get perfectly oriented.”
Unlike Pokemon Go, which saw users walking into traffic from not paying attention to their surroundings, Lumin shows what’s in front of you: If a person walks by, or if you’re about to encounter a set of steps, it will be there on the screen. The stop itself is flagged by an orange marker that can’t be missed.
At each stop, you’ll find an interactive opportunity. “We have a mobile storytelling platform that allows any customer to build their experience — they can create a tour, treasure hunt, games,” explained GuidiGo CEO David Lerman.
When viewing the art through augmented reality, you’ll see it in a way that blends overlays, videos, photographs, sounds and touch-activated animations; each provides contextual information. “Without any words, there’s a tremendous amount of explanation,” said Scott.
At the Babylonian Empire, for example, you’ll see a 3D reconstruction of the Ishtar Gate. It was created by closely studying samples of photographs. By rotating your phone, you can also see it at different angles. But to see more details, you have to walk closer — zooming doesn’t work with augmented reality because it’s a real object.
“One of the challenges with AR is that it’s very flash-bang,” said Megan DiRienzo, interpretive planner at the DIA. “We chose experiences that help people engage with works of art rather than just wowing them with beautiful AR animation.”
As augmented reality becomes more integrated into our daily lives, new user behaviors will have to be learned. At the Native American stop, visitors will need to listen for the storm-related noises of thunderbirds. “The stop is very tricky because we’re asking people to tap and listen, not tap and look,” said DiRienzo.
Since it’s still in prototype phase, Lumin is not yet formatted for the visually or hearing impaired. There’s also the question about what it does to visitor choice. “People have expressed concern that if you’re following (the wayfinder), you’re not noticing all the beautiful works of art around you,” said DiRienzo. That’s why user feedback is important.
There’s also the question of what will happen if too much technology is brought into the art world. “Technology is important, but technology should not replace the works of art,” said Salort-Pons. “Technology is a springboard to help us better understand the work of art. It creates dialogue with the work of art and helps the visitor actually pay attention to it.”
Other museums around the world are also implementing augmented reality mobile tours in the near future, but as the DIA was ahead of the game, the innovation came with risks. “We didn’t know where this was going to take us because there was no past experience,” said Salort-Pons. “But we believed that this could be the technology of the future.”
Lumin won’t replace all levels of learning in the museum: You can still count on labels explaining background and history. “I think Lumin is going to facilitate a lot,” continued Salort-Pons. “People will have better accessibility to the collection and the end goal is that we’re going to serve our community better.”
How to experience Lumin
Beginning Wednesday, the DIA will have 40 phones available at the Farnsworth entrance. You'll be asked for a photo ID in exchange, which can be picked up once the phone is returned. To rent a device, you must be 18 or older. (Don’t try to walk out with a phone: It will lock on you.)
Visitors can expect a 30- to 35-minute tour for the initial seven stops, followed by a 45-minute to one-hour tour once it grows to include the full 10 stops.
The use of Lumin is free with regular museum admission. Admission to the DIA is free for residents of Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties. Others: $12.50 adults, $8 seniors, $6 ages 6-17.
9 a.m.-4 p.m. Tue.-Thu., 9 a.m.-10 p.m. Fri., 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Sat.-Sun.5200 Woodward, Detroit. 313-833-7900. www.dia.org.
The seven stops of the Lumin tour
1. Babylonian Empire
Objective: Explore the 3D reconstruction of the Ishtar Gate
2. The Colors of Carved Stone
Objective: Place the painted reliefs onto the stone to visualize the original colors
The Detroit Institute of Arts will soon provide a mobile tour using augmented reality which for example will allow visitors to play games like finding parts of different animals in this Mushhushshu- Dragon, Symbol of the God Marduk when viewed through Lumin in Detroit on Wednesday, Jan. 18, 2017.(Photo: Romain Blanquart, Detroit Free Press)
3. How to Mark Property in Mesopotamia
Objective: Explore how names were signed on documents and envelopes, examine old seals
4. Mummy Care, Inside and Out
Objective: X-ray a skeleton of a mummy and understand how he died
5. Transformation of a Tree Stump
Objective: Tap the stump to see how it was used as a royal presentation bowl
6. The Water Filter of the Islamic World
Objective: See the workings of a kilga (a water stand and filter)
7. Native American
Objective: Find images of the thunderbird by listening for storm-related noises