Last March, I penned a post “Augmented Wearables and the Future of Museums” in an attempt to better understand the emerging landscape of augmented/virtual reality wearables, and what they might mean for museums.
A potential game-changer occurred last week that has led me to update what I had called, for lack of a better name, “the Mooshme Matrix of Place-based Augmented Devices.”
Essentially I realized most devices could be best categorized by answering two questions:
Number 1: Is the device intended for private or social use?
Number 2: Is the device intended to enhance the user’s experience of their surroundings or transport them somewhere else?
With my new update, the empty matrix now looks like this:
The vertical axis of space charts “here” (the augmentation deepens the user with their surrounding physical space) to “there” (the augmentation transports the user to a different space, often referred to as virtual reality). The horizontal axis of people charts “me” (the augmentation is for a single user OR each user has a personalized experience) to “we,” formerly known as “us” but that avoided the available rhyme (the augmentation connects the user with the people around them, their social network, and/or other users of the device).
A week ago all weekend New York Times subscribers received with their print paper something unexpected on their doorstep, described by one NYTimes reporter as a “Fresh Direct container for three jumbo eggs.” It was a set of Google Cardboard. Combined with their new app, NYT VR, readers can explore print stories in new ways. As the app describes, “Through virtual reality, The New York Times puts you at the center of the stories that only we can tell: incredible stories reported by award-winning journalists, all told in an immersive, 360-degree video experience. The limits of our storytelling capabilities now stretch further than we ever before imagined, and we are excited to experiment with this new form of journalism.”
If you want to know what it’s like, you can read a report from Rick Broida of Fortune Magazine. What interests me most is his description of his experience: “I felt like I was standing there myself.” [note: emphasis is my own]
Compare that back to the Matrix, his “I” and “there”. We now have a device for the lower-left quadrant. While Cardboard is not new – at least, not new this month – the NYTimes is providing us an excellent use case for the device. My wife and I watch TV together – television is social. But when I read the newspaper, that’s a personal experience. And newspapers can serve as portals to others places, places we want to learn more about and perhaps only have the safety to visit through the printed word. Now the newspaper is using Cardboard to extend that experience through virtual reality, still as private and personal as reading the paper, and just as transporting as the best journalism.
So as the latest devices enter the market, let’s keep placing them on the Matrix and keeping seeking the ones that I argued best align with museum use: the upper-right, the “we” and “here” quadrant, the one that enhances an individual’s ability to connect with the people and places around them.