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How Are Museums Using HoloLens?

Museums around the world are doing interesting things with HoloLens. In this article we highlight some of the most interesting Museum HoloLens projects from the past few years.

What is HoloLens?

HoloLens is mixed reality headset developed by Microsoft. Unlike Virtual Reality, which is closed to the surrounding world, mixed reality adds images to a users surroundings. These 3D holographic images are displayed on the transparent HoloLens display and are visible only to the user.

Originally released in 2016, Microsoft updated HoloLens in 2019 with a lighter and improved device. These are available at $3500.

HoloLens is being used in multiple industries including healthcare, manufacturing, industrial settings and retail. Museums have also been quick to experiment with the technology and below we’ve rounded up how museums are using Hololens.

Museums and HoloLens

Imagine putting your visitors face to face with an important figure from history, that’s what Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum in New York City did with a recent experience developed with HoloLens. Visitors to the museum could put on a HoloLens headset for an encounter with a life-size hologram of astronaut Dr. Mae Jemison (the first woman of color in space).

In the “Defying Gravity” installation, Dr. Jemison discussed her career and those of other women involved in the space program. Rather than transporting users to another place, the HoloLens technology brought the astronaut to their physical location in the museum.

Microsoft’s Mixed Reality Capture Studio in San Francisco used 106 cameras to record the hologram of Dr. Jemison. The installation opened on September 22 2018.

Buzz Aldrin Gives HoloLens Tour of Mars

Another example of an important figure from the exploration of space being immortalised for an exhibit comes from the Kennedy Space Center.

They took visitors on a tour of Mars with Astronaut Buzz Aldrin and Curiosity Rover operator Erisa Hines. The HoloLens experience allows visitors to view several Martian sites that have been generated from real images captured on the planet’s surface.

The HoloLens experience wasn’t originally developed for public use, but has been adapted from a program used by NASA scientists to analyze Mars imagery and simulate working in the field.

HoloLens Brings Mixed Reality Museum to Kyoto

One of the big advantages of the Mixed Reality experience delivered by HoloLens over Virtual Reality is the way in which it allows holograms to interact with the real world. One example of this developed in partnership with the Kyoto National Museum gives visitors to the oldest Zen temple in Japan a personal tour from a Zen Monk.

The HoloLens experience blends historic artifacts with holograms to give visitors a new way to appreciate and understand one of Japan’s national treasures.


Mixed Reality Art on HoloLens

Concrete Storm is an artwork developed by Amsterdam-based artist duo Studio Drift in collaboration with Microsoft and Artsy for the 2017 Armory Show New York.

The installation sees a trio of concrete pillars that are static to the naked eye nearly quadruple in height and animate, as if tree trunks swaying back and forth in a sudden breeze, when visitors out on the HoloLens headset.

The artists said “Concrete Storm expands our boundaries of the digital world, unbound from screens, and integrated into the fabric of our physical existence”.

HoloLens Exhibition brings iconic cars to life

The Petersen Automotive Museum is home to one of the greatest collections of cars in the world, including many one-of-a-kind vehicles from film, television, and video games.

To celebrate their 25th anniversary, the Petersen teamed up with the Comic-Con Museum to spotlight iconic cars in their collection. The Petersen turned to HoloLens to bring a new element of theater to the iconic DeLorean from Back to the Future with an intimate tour from Bob Gale the creator and producer of the movie.

Fans could also explore the “Warthog” from the Halo gaming franchise.

Exhibit lets visitors look inside the Supercars 

Also at the Petersen Automotive Museum was An American Supercar, an exhibit looking at the history of Ford’s renowned GT sports car.

HoloLens technology allowed the museum to tell the story of these cars as never before, taking visitors into inner workings of the GT and its historical predecessors.

The museum described HoloLens as “unique technology provides an untethered altered reality where users connect with others inside the same scene while remaining aware of their surroundings.”

Bringing Mont Saint Michel to Life

In 17th and 18th-century France, large-scale 3D maps—painstakingly built by hand down to the most intricate details—were the most advanced mapping technology of their time.

Fast-forward 300 years, and Musee des Plans-Reliefs and Microsoft have brought one of these maps to life using HoloLens.

Mixed Reality Exhibit in New York’s Times Square

Unmoored was a site specific artwork on the timely topic of climate change developed by the North Carolina-based conceptual artist Mel Chin.

Unmoored allows guests to explore a version of Times Square where thanks to melting ice caps, erosion, and coastal flooding it is entirely under water. The artwork is accessed using HoloLens, or in augmented reality via a mobile phone.

With thanks to Roberta Bertini and John Stack for sharing links to HoloLens examples above.

About the author – Jim Richardson

Jim Richardson is the founder of MuseumNext. He has worked with the museum sector on innovation projects for more than twenty years and now splits his time between delivering consultancy, innovation workshops and keynote presentations.

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