BBC launching augmented reality museum app

The BBC is launching an augmented reality app that will let users explore a range of artefacts from UK museums from the comfort of their own home.

BBC Research and Development (BBC R&D) teamed up with Nexus Studios to develop Civilisations AR, an augmented reality (AR) app that will let users explore museum objects including Rodin’s The Kiss from the National Musem of Wales Cardiff, The Torquay Mummy from the Torquay Museum and Madonna and Child from the National Museum of Scotland.

It has been produced to accompany the new arts and culture series, Civilisations, that will be broadcast on BBC Two this spring. The app will be available on iOS and Android.

Work started on the project in July 2017, when BBC R&D put out an open call for proposals on how best to utilise AR as part of the Civilisations project. From more than 60 submissions, London agency Nexus Studio was selected.

David Johnston, senior product manager of AR and VR at BBC R&D, wrote in a blog post that the biggest challenge of the project was designing the user experience in a way that felt native to AR.

“The touchstone for this project was a magic-lens – the idea that our phone screens become a magnifying glass, a torch or a window into another world,” he said. “That could be magical or realistic but it had to feel natural, even for users that hadn’t had exposure to AR before.”

With the UX and design sorted, attention turned to the content. The development team worked with over 200 organisations to 3D scan all the artefacts featured within the app.

Both the app and TV series are part of the Civilisations Festival, which is a joint effort between the BBC and 250 museums, galleries, archives and libraries across the UK. It aims to spotlight the artefacts and collections on display through events and accompanying BBC programming.

Tony Hall, Director-General of the BBC, said: “We want it to inspire the public to take their learning further and we want the Civilisations Festival to allow them to do just that by engaging with museums and galleries across the UK.

“Above all, we want to leave a powerful legacy of lifelong cultural enrichment and bring a whole new generation of people together through the arts in a way that only the BBC can.”

Image: c. BBC.