Meaningfully personalized museum experiences


Foto: Three ITU researchers from the Department of Digital Design are taking part in the GIFT Project. From left to right: Martin Pichlmair, Anders Sundnes Løvlie and Miguel Sicart.

The IT-University of Copenhagen is leading a new EU-funded research project to help museums across Europe exploit the potential of technology to create engaging visitor experiences of art and culture.

Smartphones, combined with technologies like augmented reality, offer museums completely new opportunities for involving their audience. This major new research project led by researchers from the IT-University will provide museums with tools to better exploit the potential of digital media.

The project named GIFT will kick off January 2017 with a grant of 2.4 million € from EU’s Horizon 2020 funding programme for research and innovation.

“European cultural institutions and museums have long spent much effort on digitization and development of IT infrastructure, but they face a number of challenges when it comes to creating engaging digital experiences for their guests. And that is where we can help them”, says project coordinator and assistant professor at ITU, Anders Sundnes Løvlie.

The museum experience as a playlist

In particular, the researchers are interested in how mobile applications can enhance experiences in physical space.

“We call it hybrid virtual museum experiences”, because we’re not that interested in strapping virtual reality glasses on people, shutting them inside a digital world. We need the physical space as well as the digital, a bit like Pokémon Go, which makes people relate to both the physical and the digital environment. We aim at creating nuanced and complex experiences, rather than just digital reproductions of physical exhibitions”, says Anders Sundnes Løvlie.

More specifically, the project will result in two prototypes that personalize the visitor’s museum experience. With one app, visitors will be able to create their own guide to an exhibition, which can be passed on to friends – in the same way as when friends today share ‘mixtapes’ or music playlists. The second app is a game where visitors can play against other visitors in museums all around Europe. The prototypes will be freely available to museums.

The challenge is not technological

In collaboration with the museum partners, the researchers will develop an open-source framework with guidelines, theory and software that can help museums to design similar digital experiences.

“The challenge is not primarily technological. The challenge is to find a good design that works for the users. But it should not only be fun – art and heritage are also about serious topics that may be provocative or that one should learn something about. It is important that museums do not just function as archives, but that they also involve the audience in the cultural experience. When the audience is allowed to participate and contribute, they gain more ownership and a better understanding”, says Anders Sundnes Løvlie.