Augmented reality improves British Museum visitors experience

Technology initiative inspires British Museum visitors

Young visitors to the British Museum in London will be able to use augmented reality, 3D printing and touch tables to find out more about key exhibits such as the Parthenon sculptures in an extension to a programme backed by Samsung.

The Samsung Digital Discovery Centre opened in 2009 to provide a technology hub designed to help children and young people learn about and interact with the Museum’s collection. Since then, more than 40,000 visitors between the ages of 3 and 18 have used tablets and mobile phones to bring to life artefacts from Buddhist sculpture to Egyptian paintings, and from clocks to clothing.

The ‘Passport to the Afterlife’ tour of the ancient Egypt galleries, which runs on Galaxy Nexus phones, has been cited in academic dissertations and presented at major international conferences.

A five-year extension to the partnership announced this month will support the development of a range of longer and more in-depth programmes in line with the new English National Curriculum. The first in a series of app-based self-learning activities uses the latest in image-recognition and AR technology to bring the sculptures of the Parthenon to life.

Between now and 2018, the aim is to double the 5,000 students a year visiting with school groups who take advantage of the Digital Discovery Centre’s facilities. All the activities are free, with 11 different school programmes running throughout the school year and family activities during most weekends.

According to Neil MacGregor, director of the British Museum, the initiative offers the most ambitious and extensive on-site digital learning programme of any UK museum. “Families and schoolchildren of all ages have found these superb digital tools irresistible, and for us they have become indispensable in opening up and encouraging active engagement with our vast and varied collection,” he said.

Andy Griffiths, managing director, Samsung UK & Ireland, declined to comment on the financial value of the support his company is providing, but said that the partnership forms part of a wider commitment to help close the digital literacy and skills gap in the UK.

“This exciting partnership, as part of our wider Digital Classroom initiative, inspires young people to unlock their learning potential through the use of technology,” he said. “The British Museum has been at the forefront of innovating digital learning and we are excited to see where the future will take us.”

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