Part II. Applications of Augmented Reality: things we could do with them

Alan Craig and I have been thinking about and fiddling with applications of these ideas, especially for education, science,  and cultural heritage, e.g., in museums and schools.  We have described a number of scenarios along the lines described above. Let’s walk through some of them to give you and idea.


There are many places where you could use a kiosk.

For example, museums have glass cases filled with objects, with interpretive texts. One approach is to create “kiosk” which lets you “hold the object in your hand” (Figure 1 below).  The basic goal here is to let the visitor get a much better view of the objects, even if only virtual. Objects in a glass case can only be seen from limited angles and positions.  If we can hold a virtual copy in our hand, we can look closely, move it around, see what is on the bottom, etc.  We proposed such an application for our local Spurlock Museum, to augment the collection of wood carvings.  Unfortunately, the project was not funded and has not been realized yet.

fig-0-kioskThere are a whole slew of interesting things that might be done with a tablet or smartphone app in a museum.  Imagine that there is a free app that visitors can load on their own phone or tablet, one could put signs or markers (e.g., QR codes) in the case, so that interesting content would “pop up” on your mobile device when you point at them. The key concept is:

“Point your mobile device at an object on display, 
the app recognizes where you are and what you are 
pointing at, to give you something cool.”

The “something” might be text, video, 2D or 3D, or audio.

This is exactly the same technology as the Access magazine shown above, except you plant the content around the space of the museum.

Some of the objects themselves might be augmented.  For example, in 2011 I visited the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, DC. Some of the exhibits are exquisitely decorated objects, e.g. Figure 2. For an item like this, some visitors will be interested in details of the technique, such as the bead work.  One exciting concept here is to enable a visitor suck a virtual display into your tablet, to study it more closely, magnify, rotate, etc.  (Fig 3)


Figure 2. Lakota beaded hide coat, ca. 1890, from


Figure 3. Sketch of “hot spots” concept.

The NMAI also had an exhibit with the theme is “where we live”, which teaches about the many styles of houses invented by the first peoples of America. This is realized with walk-in replicas of an igloo, a tipi, a stilt house, and an adobe.  Unfortunately, due to health and safety codes, these exhibits cannot have any furniture or objects inside them, as you would like. The result is an empty tipi, etc., which you can walk into, but have nothing in them. Quite unsatisfactory, especially in a museum which has a large and well documented collection of domestic artifacts that could be used to portray what it would be like to live in these dwellings.

Augmented Reality could be used to let you look in and see what is “inside”. This might be done with something like the AR “binoculars” from Multimedia Solutions. This would let you look in and see shat should be there, possibly with your friends in there as well.  Or it might be done with a handheld device, such as a tablet, a la, Daqri’s Interior Design application that looks through a door into a room that isn’t really there.

And so on.

During lunch at the Mitsitam Café in the NMAI (definitely recommended), I had an idea for an AR app that augments the café tables to show you some of the things you can go see inside the museum.  We could put QR codes or other markers on each table. If you don’t use the app then the table is just a table. If you have the app on your mobile, you point it at the marker on your table and you get a virtual place decoration, such as a carving, along with info about where to find it upstairs.  Figure 4 sketches this concept.


Figure 4. Sketch of dining table AR concept.


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