I open each year’s TrendsWatch report, produced by the at the American Association of Museums, like a birthday present. Led by Elizabeth Merritt, their Vice President and Founding Director, this survey of emerging future trends – and their possible impact on both society and museums – always helps inform my understanding of how to keep my daily work aligned with cutting-edge practices. [Note: Elizabeth also contributes to the final segments of Object Oriented, our podcast about digital learning in collections-based museums].
This week TrendsWatch2016 came out. You can download your own copy here. As always, it was fascinating to read their take on the following five trends:
- Labor 3.0: new jobs, or a jobless future?
- More Than Human: extending the spectrum of ability
- Me/We/Here/There: museums and the matrix of place-based augmented devices
- Capture the Flag: the struggle over representation & identity
- Happiness: because you get what you measure
And of course, if you are a follower of my blog, or my column on DMLcentral, that third chapter, about the matrix of place-based augmented devices, is based on my thinking last year as I attempted to get my head around these emerging practices and their relationship with museums (here and here). I am honored Elizabeth found use for it within their report and took it further than I ever did.
Barry Joseph, associate director of digital learning at the American Museum of Natural History, has neatly parsed the taxonomy of rapidly speciating AR/VR tech. His “Mooshme Matrix of Place-based Augmented Devices” (see page 26) ranks each platform along two axes: from here (enhancing the user’s surroundings) to there (transporting the user to a different space); and from me (personal/solitary experiences) to we (shared, social experiences).
Joseph acknowledges the threat posed by we/there technology like Oculus Rift: If people can be social in immersive, inspiring virtual environments, why come to a museum? But he proposes that such experiences can generate deep interest and inspire people to seek information in real life. The proliferation of AR tech expands the world of BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) and the ways in which people can mediate their own visits. Joseph is most excited, however, by we/here AR technology like HoloLens, which he calls the “sweet spot of museum engagement.” What if visitors could see, handle, manipulate and share digital doppelgangers of real objects, or share the attentions of a docent avatar? “It is why people travel to museums in the first place,” Joseph points out, “to have a place-based, shared experience with their friends and family.”
Museums, along with print journalism and classical music, have been steadily losing market share to other pastimes. To Joseph’s point about inspiring curiosity, increasingly sophisticated AR and VR will heighten the impact museums can make as they push their content out into the world via these platforms. Can AR/VR experiences provided beyond museum walls help win new audiences?
Read the full report here.