Museum of the Future
Artist: ArchiVision, Netherlands,
Imagine being able to visit the Louvre, the Rijksmuseum and the Guggenheim all in one day! Imagine looking at the world’s most famous masterpieces from your favourite chair in your own home. Imagine being able to look around museums and visit heritage sites that you otherwise might never be able to see because you can’t afford it, or aren’t physically able to travel, or just don’t have the time. Then imagine creating your own museum, populating it with your favourite works of art and sharing your creation with others.
Sounds like science fiction? Not with the Oculus Rift! Soon, everything described above will be reality. Not a physical reality but a virtual one.
Virtual cultural heritage experience
Virtual reality will offer great opportunities for the world of museums, galleries and archives. A first step would be to recreate existing museums online so that people from all over the world could visit them from exactly where they are. And then each of us could curate collections and put them in an environment of our choosing: how about looking at some of Rembrandt’s paintings in one of the workshops he worked in? Or what about a museum in which you could change the entire collection with a press of a button? How about stepping into a painting from Monet and being able to walk around the water-lily pond?
At Europeana, we have been experimenting with this new technology. We asked the Dutch design agency ArchiVision to develop a 3D model of a small fictional museum (the ‘EUseum’) in which you can marvel at some of the masterpieces from the Dutch Rijksmuseum. For this demo, we used a development kit for the Oculus Rift virtual reality glasses. Using the headset, you can ‘walk’ around and see the paintings at much closer range than would be possible in reality. When you turn your head, your view changes accordingly, giving you a sense of actually being in the virtual museum. To get the idea, just watch the video in which you’ll see some of our staff members enjoying the demo!
from their Oculus Share webpage
There is something beautiful and immersive about this work. Their stated purpose "...A first step would be to recreate existing museums" is fine. Yet as a designer I have to as...
Is copying reality the same as designing reality?
... Obviously not, and so this is not the future.
From the purple digital rope line in front of a painting that cannot be harmed to the inability of this space to hold virtual artworks other than paintings, this gallery is problematic. The true function of the purple rope line is not to protect the work, but to tell a story of work that needs protection - work that belongs in a gallery. The secondary function is to fill up the visual space, a reference for depth and detail. In graphic design terms, it literary is an underline for the painting.
This secondary issue of filling up of space is a common point of confusion for virtual design. Chairs that will never support the weight of a person, tracks of lighting whose rays are already baked into the walls, and plants as fake as plastic ones all serve to flesh out the space of a virtual scene. Without these elements, the scene might feel empty. It might feel less like a gallery.
Are chairs, light fixtures, and plants necessary or are they crutches for designers?
... A true first step would be to try to limit their use - and see what emerges in their place.