Ubiquitous technologies for museums

Interface concepts from AR and VR have become popular for use in museums. VR is a technology that immerses the user in a digitally constructed, synthetic world, isolating her from the physical surroundings. AR fundamentally follows the same paradigm by extending the physical world through a superimposed, contextualized layer of digital, audiovisual information, displayed on a mobile device or even a head worn display (HMD). By their technological approach, VR and AR present highly focused information that they place, often together with a mobile device, between a visitor and their surroundings or other people.

Ubiquitous Computing (ubiComp) and the Internet of Things (IoT) embed networked computational infrastructures directly into the artefacts of the environment. With interface concepts such as ambient displays and calm computing this marks a departure from conventional interaction paradigms: Interaction no longer takes place via graphical user interfaces on terminals or mobile controlling devices. The application of ubicomp for museum exhibitions and information presentation aims to overcome problems of distraction, isolation and obscuring the exhibits by interweaving mediated information with the artifacts and the visitor behavior. The goal is to enable visitors to experience the original places and museum artifacts, to have a shared experience with others and to enrich that experience by selectively introducing information through narrative elements and storytelling. Projected videos and images, spatially arranged localized sound sources and animated physical objects as tangible interfaces are triggered by the visitors behavior and interactions with the surroundings. They are embedded as responsive, location sensitive, non-linear elements into the exhibition. The physical exhibition space itself becomes the interface to inform and emotionally involve exhibition visitors. Our goal is to instrument the museum environment to allow artifacts and exhibition spaces to tell an engaging and informative story that captures a visitor’s imagination.