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The tech start-up plugging museums into the potential of Desktop AR

At MuseumNext we receive our fair share of enquiries from new tech companies looking to launch into the museum market. And while not all are quite as revolutionary as the developers would have us believe, every now and again a solution comes across our desk that makes us sit up and take note.

New entrant to the immersive solution for museum market, Perception, is one of these. Perception is introducing a new kind of Augmented Reality (AR) system called Desktop AR, one that enables users to enjoy museums’ collection holographically at home without the need for expensive hardware or high-tech AR glasses.  So, we sat down with founder and CEO, Dr Sirisilp Kongsilp (known as Dr Rabbit), to find out more about how he is hoping to improve the way we enjoy arts and culture in the future.

The UK-based start-up, is less than 2 years old but the concept behind Perception has been an obsession for Dr Rabbit for the best part of the last decade. So much so that he opted to quit his job as a consultant for IBM to pursue his passion for VR and AR technologies. More than 8 years, a Masters degree and a PhD in Human–Computer Interaction later, and Perception is turning heads at proof of concept stage.

Together with co-founder Krisada Chaiyasarn, a Cambridge University alumni and specialist in 3D reconstructions, Perception’s Holo SDK tool is gaining attention as a cost-effective alternative to the expensive Augmented Reality glasses hardware typically required to bring AR experiences to life.

As Dr Rabbit explains, “AR glasses  technologies are expensive, bulky and have relatively short life spans as the quality of the equipment advances fast. But we are approaching the entire immersive experience from a different perspective with Desktop AR technology. It creates a holographic illusion by tracking a user’s head and rendering 3D images according to the user’s viewing angle. The end user needs nothing more than a regular desktop and good old pair of 3D glasses, which can be picked up for as little as $0.50.

“Moreover, we are making the technology accessible by putting the tools required for creating Desktop AR applications into the hands of developers. This enables them to make holographic applications according to their needs, in a cost-effective way.”

Dr Rabbit says that, given the challenges experienced by thousands of museums, galleries and cultural institutions over the last 12 months, there couldn’t be a better time to introduce Desktop AR to market.

“We know that there’s an increased demand for digital experiences caused by the pandemic and many museums have pivoted successfully to showcase their artefacts and artworks online. But to keep people engaged in the long-term, digital content will need to become more inventive, more immersive and, we believe, jump off the screen. While there’s no shortage of 360-degree tours and interactive tools being offered via Google or a museum’s own website, these are still predominantly stuck in 2D.

“What we are working on is to provide museums with the ability to enhance their exhibition and collection experiences in an exciting and sustainable way – both within the museum environment and for online visitors who are digesting content from home.

“Once upon a time you could only find these kinds of technologies in Sci-Fi movies but we are on the cusp of making them accessible to anyone with a computer. That is particularly exciting in the museum space because the source material is so interesting and valuable. And through Desktop AR we believe that we can deepen the experiences for the public.”

As part of the next phase in the company’s plan for release, Perception are now looking to work with a number of institutions as part of a final pilot project before full launch in the second half of 2021. Dr Rabbit says,

“In order to showcase the full potential of Desktop AR, we are creating a number of holographic exhibitions in collaboration with institutions. In fact, we are still looking for additional museums to partner with currently, so I would encourage any digital team interested in finding out more about our solution to get in touch.”

Find out more about collaborating with Perception here.

The future of AR

While Augmented and Virtual Reality have now been with us for several years, most advocates for the technology would claim that we have barely scratched the surface of what can be achieved. What started as a trend in gaming is now being taken seriously by everybody from global tech firms to the entertainment industry, and from the healthcare sector to the corporate world. Indeed, a recent article in Forbes predicted that 2021 spend on XR was set to increase by 78.5%.

One of the key limiting factors identified by industry experts has been the need for headsets and display units. But as innovative developers like Perception are proving, an untethered and device-agnostic approach to the technology will serve to facilitate dramatic growth. As content creators begin to add layers of interactivity and complexity to digital experiences, the next five years promises to be an exciting time for those innovating in the extended reality (XR) space.

Dr Rabbit says,

“Desktop AR will have benefits in all kinds of industries, of course. But one of the reasons we are focusing on the museum sector is because the technology is such a perfect fit for content creators looking to entertain, educate and engage people in new ways.

“Accessibility has long been considered an important topic for museums and galleries but getting that authentic museum experience is difficult in 2D. While we understand that nothing is ever quite the same as an in-person visit, I am confident that the depth of an immersive experiences using DesktopAR can be greatly enhanced.”

You can find out more about Perception and how to get involved with their upcoming DesktopAR pilot here.


About the author – Tim Deakin

Tim Deakin is a journalist and editorial consultant working with a broad range of online publications.

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