AR technology allows anyone to design a cultural experience, blurring boundaries between public and private in institutions like museums and transforming how people experience art
Augmented reality is most widely known for location-based gaming like Pokémon Go, but now it is impacting a new area: museums. These institutions have traditionally been best experienced in person, but as reality becomes increasingly virtual, early adopters are finding ways to add a digital layer to them.
Museums and outside groups are primarily incorporating AR into collections through standalone apps, like Cuseum or Google’s Tango, or Snapchat lenses like one recently released by the Whitney, which lets viewers superimpose their face onto a painting. Mixed reality experiences and activities provide visitors with more information and interaction without taking up space in the location, and they may also serve to raise the appeal of museums to visitors who typically find them boring.
Although AR can encourage engagement, it has also raised questions where unauthorized activations are concerned. A group of artists created the AR-based MoMAR Gallery app to remix Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) programming. In the Jackson Pollock room at MoMA, guests can use the app to view the Pollock paintings on the wall with digital add-ons or alterations by other artists. However, this app is not owned by or affiliated with MoMA.
As of now, this type of non-sponsored AR is legal. However, the activity may someday be considered “virtual trespassing“—making a private space public by way of mixed reality without prior approval. Perhaps, to avoid issues like these, museums will take AR into their own hands as the technology continues to transform how people relate to art.