Imagine a digital re-imagining of the traditional brick & mortar museum, where visitors could use their own mobile devices to become a part of the museum experience. Augmented Reality (AR) & Mobile Applications are an effective way to build user interest in museum collections and exhibits by engaging users and prompting their participation within an exhibit. With the advent of Social Media and Mobile devices, the current paradigm of museums pales in comparison to the next generation of museums to come.

Augmented Reality, like many early technologies, was only possible in controlled settings with specific hardware and software designed for that usage. Medical students have long been able to practice open heart surgeries on dummies wearing AR goggles where visuals are mapped over the real world. The critical step we are experiencing now is the ability to map digital information over the physical world, making AR on mobile devices possible. With mobile devices came the ability to put AR in the hands of everyone. Using location and compass capabilities that come with mobile devices, museum visitors can hold their mobile device at eye level and see digital information mapped over their view of the museum. This information signifies where users are located and what direction and exhibits they are viewing. Users can view content such as blueprints to a Historic building mapped over the current structure, take tours of the museum based on their location or even prompt a virtual reenactment of a historic event to be viewed while in the exhibit, all from their mobile device.

Augmented Reality & mobile applications for museums would impact museum planning, exhibition design and museum attendance in a positive way. Those tools would allow curators to design interactive exhibits that would draw the attention of a younger, more mobile connected audience. Through the use of social media visitors could share their favorite painting, sculpture or collections with their friends, bringing more attention to the museum and its exhibits.

The session will show, in full scope, the evolution of interactivity in museum exhibits and how augmented reality applications could work to positively impact museum exhibitions. Below are links to a few examples of what a museum Augmented Reality mobile application looks like, using The Smithsonian Institution as a location.


Sample screens:



Session Info 

  • Keywords: augmented reality, mobile devices, mobile applications, social media
  • Relevance: New Media Directors, IT Directors, Marketing & Public Relations Directors within the museum community