Five best in class examples of how museums are including augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) have been provided below. Examples of museums that have used the AR/VR technology to create an immersive and inspiring experience for other users include the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum, the National History Museum of Utah, the Tate Modern art museum, the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History, and the National Museum of Singapore. To identify the best in class examples, we selected AR/VR projects that have won an award (in particular the MUSE award by the American Alliance of Museums) or identified in more than one credible source (here and here) as a leading example in the museum industry. A brief description of the identified examples follow.
1. The Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum
The Situation Room Experience by the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum puts participants into a high-stakes international crisis. The crisis — which differs each time — is based on historical facts and documents from the National Archives and Records Administration. In the AR-enabled environment, participants, which can range from 25-37, assume the roles of "White House Crisis Management Team, members of the intelligence community and of the media" and interact and solve multiple challenges in real-time. The combination of AR technology with historic events and role-playing earned the project a silver award at the 2017 MUSE Award by the American Alliance of Museums under the games and virtual/augmented reality category.
2. National History Museum of Utah
The Utah Climate Challenge by the National History Museum of Utah won silver at the 2018 MUSE Awards by the American Alliance of Museums under the games and virtual/augmented reality category. The Utah Climate Challenge is a virtual reality game that "illustrates cause and effect" of human activity on our environment. Players have to grapple with choices such as if a vertical farm will generate enough food or how coal or gas energy will affect the air quality. As players make choices, the consequences — good or bad — pile up. As such, players must act as advocates that support better ways of meeting the virtual city's needs. The content in the game is based on data from different world data sets, which adds authenticity to the gameplay. While the game has different themes, the climate change theme has been the most popular. Overall, the virtual game has enabled the museum to encourage collaborative and conscious decision-making, in lieu of the state's rapidly growing population, finite resources, and climate change.
3. Tate Modern
Tate Modern, an art museum, won the bronze award at the 2018 MUSE Awards by the American Alliance of Museums under the games and virtual/augmented reality category for its Modigliani VR: The Ochre Atelier project. The Modigliani VR: The Ochre Atelier project brings to life Modigliani's final Parisian studio. Tate Modern, with the help of Preloaded, used documentary materials, first-hand accounts, historical and technical research, and Modigliani's work to reimagine the last place the artist worked. The environment consists of more than 60 objects, artworks, and materials, as well as words from those who knew the artist.
4. Smithsonian Museum of Natural History
Through the use of Augmented reality, the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History was able to bring to life the Bone Hall anatomy exhibit. The exhibits have largely remained the same for the past 50 years. With the “Skins & Bones” app, guests can overlay skin and movements unto the bones. In one example, a sea cow grows flesh, and in another example, users can see how an anhinga catches fish. While using the app in front of the bones exhibit maximizes the experience, users can still try the app at home. Through the app, the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History was able to increase dwell time on the exhibit to 14 minutes from 1.34 minutes, an increase of 1000%.
5. National Museum of Singapore, Singapore
With an app that is similar in nature to Pokemon Go, the National Museum of Singapore was able to bring to life the "from The William Farquhar Collection of Natural History Drawings consisting of flora and fauna." Using the app and the camera function on their mobile device, guests hunt for plants and animals within the drawing. Every plant and/or animal captured by the guests are then stored in a photo collection the guests can access later. When guests open the captured animals/plants image, they learn more information such as the diet and habitat of each plant/animal.