Tag Archives: QR code

What’s the deal with… Augmented Reality

13 Jul

Last week I wrote broke the news about a super secret summer project I had been working as part of my internship. Accompanying the MIA’s latest installation, Christian Morrisseau: New Directions 2010-2012, is the museums first experimentation with AR (Augmented Reality).

But what exactly is AR?

According to the all-knowing Wikipedia, augmented reality is:

a live, direct or indirect, view of a physical, real-world environment whose elements are augmented by computer-generated sensory input such as sound, video, graphics or GPS data. It is related to a more general concept called mediated reality, in which a view of reality is modified (possibly even diminished rather than augmented) by a computer. As a result, the technology functions by enhancing one’s current perception of reality.

In other words, you can “change” the environment you’re in by looking through your phone.

How it works

Similar to how QR codes are scanned, AR markers are also scanned with your smart phone. These markers could be anything from a physical 3D object like a sculpture or an image from a magazine or poster. A GREAT feature of the AR markers is that you don’t need to scan a weird looking box (those QR codes) every time you want to access new information.

AR developers can also make channels so you don’t have to keep looking for markers, scanning them, and waiting to be taken to a separate webpage as with QR codes.

Bearing in mind my poor analogy skills, imagine AR channels as being similar to television channels. When you tuning your TV to one station, you’re not limited to one program- you can watch a series of different shows all without having to press additional buttons. With AR channels, smartphone users only have to open the channel once and then they’re free to casually walk around and wave their phone in front of objects to reveal hidden content. Users no longer have to hunt for a QR code to scan and then wait for the page to load. Opening the AR channel means the content has already loaded and is waiting to be scanned by a visitor.

*AR channels also vary slightly from television channels since you control when you see the content, unlike TV where you would have to wait for a designated broadcasting time.

Why use it

As with any new technology, there is a huge period of experimentation as people try to figure out the best way to use it. Within the museum field alone, AR has been used in various ways – sometimes not even by actual museum staff!

In October 2010, the group WeARinMoMA created a temporary exhibition inside the MoMA. Without the museums consent, they virtually added to the MoMA collection by placing digital works inside the gallery space using GPS and the Layar program.

The London Museum has also included some augmented reality elements with their exhibitions. They also used GPS and Layar in order display thousands of photographs of the city that were hidden away in their museum archives. Rather than attempt the impossible feat of showing those photos in your typical gallery space, they decided to track down the original location of those photos and super impose them over the contemporary scenery.
And voila!

But of course, you don’t have to use AR for scholarly purposes.
During this massive experimentation stage everyone has been putting on their best Mad Scientist impersonations and created some pretty crazy things.
Here are some of our favourites:

AR for your skin?!

Decepticons Roll Out!

Childhood building blocks Updated

The Magic Kingdom Gets a little More Magical

Posted by: Brittany Holliss, MIA’s Educational Assistant


Your Smartphone Summer Travel Tool

22 May

Wow! This past weekend sure was crazy here at the Harbourfront!
The Queen’s Quay Terminal building was full of families, couples, and anyone curious to see what we had in store for the holiday (and maybe take in some free air conditioning as well).

Here at MIA we were really happy to see kids getting creative at our craft table or excitedly pointing to our video screens and proudly announcing, “We’ve been there! We’ve seen that!”. And as a lot of my internship duties revolve around the use of new media and technology, I was particularly happy to hear the adults mention how they found our museum through smart phone apps.

Above: iPhone screenshots of Baffled by Travel’s “The Best of Toronto” (Version 1.6.3)
and BeeLoop’s “At a Glance” City Guide tour for Toronto (Version 3.3)

If my post about QR codes, and my sneaky hints pointing towards AR markers didn’t already give it away – I am really into tech. Not enough to start writing everything in binary code, but enough to read the work of Nancy Proctor while on the subway, or waiting for a friend, or in a coffee shop…

Currently I’ve been reading a book she’s edited featuring essays about how museums are using smart phones to achieve various exhibition goals, but as the above mentioned visitors have pointed out – these same smart phones are great for promotional and way-finding purposes as well.

Above: iPhone screenshot of GPSmyCity’s “Toronto Walking Tours and Map”

Now that vacation season is starting to pick up and people have more time to explore the city, it will be interesting (at least to me) to see HOW people have been planning their trips. The MIA has an interesting hurdle to overcome because we share our location with an entire mall. So when people look up 207 Queen’s Quay West, they find themselves amongst everything from shops to restaurants to our Inuit museum. One of my summer projects will be coming up with a way to easily direct people to our museum so visitors don’t end up thinking they’ve taken a wrong turn somewhere. Apps might be one direction we could go, but there are other options as well all of which I learn more about as I finish Nancy’s book.

Posted by: Brittany Holliss, MIA’s Educational Assistant

Happy International Museum Day!

18 May

ICOM 2012 Poster for International Museum Day: Museums in a Changing World

As an intern in the museum world, this celebration is pretty near and dear to my heart. Thanks to the good people at ICOM (the International Council of Museums), countries from across the globe have banned together since 1977 in order to raise awareness on the importance of museums.

And to show how awesome museums are, some places dedicate more than a single day to this event – they make a whole month of it!

You may have noticed that yesterday, the Twittersphere was full of answers to #museospark’s question, “What inspires you about museums?” That question was part of a run-up for IMD and we got some great responses like;

Using Twitter to lead into IMD was perfect considering this year’s event theme is entitled “Museums in a Changing World” and is all about museums and technology.

Today, the world is changing faster than ever. New technology delivers new ideas, gigabytes of information, news of an increasingly unstable climate, all shared by social media. Modern museums must compete for an audible voice against the furious pace of this background.

Museums in a Changing World is recognition that institutions are faced with interpreting, and existing in, a field that is becoming increasingly fluid. Each may face a unique set of goals, interests and audiences.    – ICOM

The MIA has certainly undergone some changes within the past year. In previous posts I’ve already written about our incorporation of social platforms like Pinterest, and explained how smartphone applications like QR code scanners are changing the way people interact with exhibitions. We’ve also used Skype and YouTube to record interviews with some of the Inuit artists we exhibit (since physical travel is not always possible). And the fact that you’re reading this on a blog is another example of our digital interests.

Those are only some of the projects we’ve completed and continue to work on – but it’s just the beginning. There are still a lot of tech surprises to come…

For instance, did you know that in the digital alphabet AR comes after QR?

What that means is once you’ve figured out how to scan all those crazy shaped QR squares, you’re ready to move to the next level: Augmented Reality (AR). Museums are just getting into this so similar to how it took a while for people to figure out how to best use QR codes, there will again be a lot of experimentation with AR.

While the MIA plays around with their computers and smartphones (stay tuned for an upcoming “What’s the deal with…AR blog post) you’ll have to wait a little longer to see the end results. But in the meantime we’re offering some special tours and fun stuff to ring in IMD. Oh, and did I mention that today admission is FREE! So come celebrate International Museum Day with us 🙂

Posted by: Brittany Holliss, MIA’s Educational Assistant

Interactive Intern Insights

7 May

Hello again! It’s week 2 of my internship and now that I’ve got the full run through of MIA’s inner workings, it’s time to get cracking on my summer project.

One of the many things I’ll be working on over the next few weeks is building on all the social media sites the MIA is connected with. I’ve already written a few Tweets (and found some written about me!), posted some links about upcoming local events, and figured out how Hootsuite works.

Museum visitors may have also noticed that our virtual interests go beyond these social media sites and appear throughout the museum. As a recent smartphone purchaser I’m the type person you’d see scanning any QR (Quick Response) codes in sight, and our exhibitions are no exception. I think it’s great that people can personalize their experience by pressing a few buttons to find more information about a particular object or artist. QR codes mean that people aren’t limited to what is presented in ‘Tombstone’ labels – an affectionate term we in the museum biz call those short labels that tell you the title, artist, and date. Scanning the bizarrely patterned QR codes can reveal videos, audio clips, and other images.

Like the Bart Hannah “Drum Dancer” we have in our lobby!

Bart Hannah’s ‘Drum Dancer’ at the entrance of MIA.

By scanning this QR code, you can access an interactive website featuring a map of his hometown of Iglulik, photos of the sculpture in various stages, and a video interview with our Education Coordinator Alysa Procida.

Using my Android Galaxy S to scan the Bart Hanna QR code.

Linked to the Youtube video of Alysa’s interview with Bart Hanna.

QR codes are still a bit new to many Canadian museums, with lots of different institutions trying to figure out how best to handle the technology. We have used our codes as an alternative to an audio tour, but we’re still on the hunt for other technologies that can enhance a trip through our collection. In fact, last month Alysa Procida and one of our volunteers Rob Mausser headed out to San Diego for the Museums and the Web conference where they gave a presentation on our QR code project. You can read a copy of it here and get a sneak peak at some new ideas we have for the future.

Posted by: Brittany Holliss,  MIA’s Educational Assistant