A PhD student from Staffordshire University is using mixed reality technology to bring museums to life and boost tourism.
Ramy Hammady, 30 from Egypt, is researching how to improve the museum experience by using augmented reality and immersive technologies which merge computer-generated content with the real-world environment.
Supported by the British Council Newton-Mosharafa Fund, Ramy is developing a new app called ‘Museum Eye’ for the Egyptian museum in Cairo which features Tutankhamen as a personal tour guide.
Ramy explained: “For security reasons, museum exhibits are usually displayed behind glass cases so what visitors can see and how they interact with the exhibits is quite limited.
“Because of this, I wanted to look at how technology can be used to make the museum experience more exciting.”
Visitors wear a Microsoft HoloLens headset and with help from the 18th dynasty Egyptian pharaoh, guests can navigate a virtual menu.
Portals throughout the museum activate different virtual scenarios — such as the king riding his horse-driven chariot or the queen appearing on her throne — and 3D scans of items on display allow users to virtually interact with exhibits and unlock hidden facts.
“The aim of the app is to increase engagement and for people to feel like they actually travel to another time.” Ramy commented.
“The HoloLens allows users to see both the physical and virtual environments simultaneously and the wearer can easily move around without any cables disturbing their experience.”
Museum Eye gained significant media interest in Ramy’s native Egypt recently when he advertised for volunteers to test his prototype. 170 visitors trialled the technology and their feedback will be used to inform the final version of the app.
Ramy now plans to promote the use of augmented reality in museums in the UK and hopes to present his work at the Displaying Egypt conference at the British Museum this summer.
Professor Minhua Eunice Ma, Dean of the School of Computing and Digital Technologies, is Ramy’s PhD supervisor and a leading academic in virtual reality technology.
She commented: “This is the first Hololens application in the museum sector. The evaluation of Museum Eye in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo showed that it significantly improved visitors’ experience and introduced new ways of interaction with artefacts in museums and engaging with heritage.”
This could be useful in the Thematic Area 4 of the ViMM project, because applications like this could really enhance the museum visitors’ quality of experience. In this specific case, the fact that the visitors can interact with the pharaoh is an element that belongs to the Storytelling field. This application runs on HoloLens, thus it offers partial immersion, meaning that the user has access to the real world. That is why the pharaoh can be seen in the real world. The field of Presence has to do with the immersion level. Finally, the users of this application can interact with the scanned museum exhibits, which is something that belongs to the Gamification field, enhancing the quality of their experience.
Microsoft HoloLens: https://www.microsoft.com/en-gb/hololens