Most likely we can all agree that technology has (positively) changed the way how visitors experience a museum. Kelly Song from CNBC says that “Museums are looking at the best attendance they’ve ever had, thanks to the way technology is revolutionizing the consumption of art…It’s allowing visitors to experience art in a new way, while bringing exhibits to others that may never even set foot in the institution at all.” We have already looked at the different application possibilities of VR in museums – from VR as a part of an exhibition, VR for accessibility and preservation reasons or VR used to pursue an educational approach. We also highlighted the topic of technological applications in museums from an Augmented Reality perspective. Today we want to share with you a new and innovative project, making art accessible through VR – to anyone.
“The best use of digital is to not make you aware of the technology, but to make you aware of the art.”
Many of today’s VR systems approach the visual, auditory and haptic sense. So far, it has been difficult to find a solution to integrate smell and taste, even though there have been a few attempts. One company specialized on the haptic sense is NeuroDigital Technologies. They have been developing gloves that let the users feel VR. In a collaboration with the Leontinka Foundation and the National Gallery of Prague they have worked on the art exhibition Touching Masterpieces, aiming to let blind and visually impaired visitors to “see” museum objects. We have all came across the “Please do not touch” signs in museums. In order to protect valuable objects from any harm, they are often placed in a glass display. But the haptic sense is especially important for people who are blind or visually impaired. Therefore, three world famous sculptures – The Head of Nefertiti, Venus de Milo and David by Michelangelo – were replicated in a virtual space and can now be touched. The special gloves that allow haptic feedback enable blind and visually impaired to touch and feel 3D models of the artwork. They can now “see” the famous sculptures. The haptic gloves are even so sensitive that different kinds of materials can be represented. Touching Masterpieces is “the first VR experience for the blind and visually impaired – not with a headset, but with a pair of gloves.”