We have been hearing a lot recently about the Museum of London handheld app Streetmuseum that let's users "see" historic views of the city on their smartphone. Basically, with this app, you use your gps to layer an old photograph on top of the real street you are standing in. It lets you carry the museum around in your pocket and makes it even more relevant - connecting in real time to your day-to-day life and questions.
Another site called history pin (beta only) is a place where users can upload photos, geotag them to a google earth map, and add stories about them. Others can download these images and then have access to them on the go. This app was developed by a group called We Are What We Do. They are explicitly trying to foster intergenerational dialogue with this tool as a way to build community, strengthen connections and create new ways to share knowledge and expertise.
It turns out that this new trend has been well mined by iphone developers and there are lots of great examples out there of ways to use it. There are apps for finding restaurants, bars and wifi hotspots - some sponsored by corporations. And then there are apps that help you make sense of the stars such as this planetarium in your pocket.
There are so many cool apps - one interprets the geological landscape, telling you what is an escarpment and what is an uplift, another tells you about the breeze you are feeling, another is a compass. Then of course there are all sorts of games.
Given all the ways to use this technology on the go, we were curious about the added value IN a museum. Clearly AR adds a layer of information and interpretation to artifacts and environments: real world elements are augmented by virtual computer-generated imagery. Because of this, an AR device (handheld, or heads-up display eg) seems like one way to present layers of content in a relatively small space (unlike a graphic). It can also respond to different learning styles dynamically (unlike a graphic), leading to higher retention of the material. It doesn't have to be a handheld that does this. We could take this same idea and pull it into another kind of display.
So is there a downside or is this a win-win?