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"Uniting the worlds of art and technology, researchers have brought virtual and augmented reality to museums and galleries, to see whether they can be used to make visits more fun and informative.

Under the IST project ArtNouveau, technologists and artists collaborated on several innovative initiatives. In Portugal’s Alberto Sampaio Museum, visitors experimented with immersive virtual painting. Put together by historical, cultural and computer graphic specialists, the system took people back in time and space to a monastery where the original frescoes were located.

Augmented reality (AR) – which integrates virtual information into the user’s world – also played its part in the trials. The Indoor Augmented Reality technology demonstrator allowed users to create their own virtual exhibition. In a room of empty picture frames, they admired masterpieces of their choosing by peering through AR glasses linked to a small mobile computer. The system calls up digitised artworks plus contextual information about them, available for example in audible form over headphones.

“If an exhibition is boring, no amount of technology will enhance it,” says Schnaider. Yet he believes that the novel interfaces offered by virtual reality and augmented reality make public art more accessible and improve the viewer experience."

AR: Coming soon to a museum near you.


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