Conference PaperPDF Available

Through the Loupe: Visitor Engagement With a Primarily Text-Based Handheld AR Application

  • Ecole Normale Supérieure de Paris and CNRS

Abstract and Figures

The use of Augmented Reality (AR) in a museum or heritage setting holds great potential. However, until now, introducing AR into their buildings has been prohibitively expensive for most museums. On the one hand, programming the AR application could not be done in-house and would be rather costly. Secondly, the time-consuming production of high-quality digital visuals, often used in AR installations, needed to be outsourced. With the arrival of several AR engines, creating the actual experience has become easy, relatively fast and cheap, meaning the costs and skills associated with content creation might be the prime reason for particularly small and medium sized museums to not engage with the use of AR. This begs the question: Can other, simpler, types of content, such as texts, also be used to create a valued AR interpretation tool? This paper will discuss a study that has made a first attempt to answering this question. In addition, it explored the role AR can play in improving engagement between visitor, the object and its related information. The Loupe is a handheld AR application that was designed and tested as part of the meSch project. For this study, content, mainly consisting of text, was created for the Loupe at the Allard Pierson Museum. The tool was then tested with 22 participants who were asked to use the Loupe, either alone or together. Through questionnaires, observations and interviews, participants' engagement with and response to the Loupe were analyzed. This paper will discuss the findings of that study, focusing on the way the Loupe influenced the relationship between visitor and object, as well as the value of textual content as part of such an AR tool.
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Through the Loupe:
Visitor Engagement With a Primarily Text-Based Handheld AR Application
Merel van der Vaart
ASHMS / Allard Pierson Museum
University of Amsterdam
Amsterdam, the Netherlands
Areti Damala
Computer and Information Sciences
University of Strathclyde
Glasgow, UK
Abstract—The use of Augmented Reality (AR) in a museum or
heritage setting holds great potential. However, until now,
introducing AR into their buildings has been prohibitively
expensive for most museums. On the one hand, programming the
AR application could not be done in-house and would be rather
costly. Secondly, the time-consuming production of high-quality
digital visuals, often used in AR installations, needed to be
outsourced. With the arrival of several AR engines, creating the
actual experience has become easy, relatively fast and cheap,
meaning the costs and skills associated with content creation
might be the prime reason for particularly small and medium
sized museums to not engage with the use of AR. This begs the
question: Can other, simpler, types of content, such as texts, also
be used to create a valued AR interpretation tool? This paper will
discuss a study that has made a first attempt to answering this
question. In addition, it explored the role AR can play in
improving engagement between visitor, the object and its related
information. The Loupe is a handheld AR application that was
designed and tested as part of the meSch project. For this study,
content, mainly consisting of text, was created for the Loupe at
the Allard Pierson Museum. The tool was then tested with 22
participants who were asked to use the Loupe, either alone or
together. Through questionnaires, observations and interviews,
participants’ engagement with and response to the Loupe were
analyzed. This paper will discuss the findings of that study,
focusing on the way the Loupe influenced the relationship
between visitor and object, as well as the value of textual content
as part of such an AR tool.
Index Terms—Augmented Reality, Exhibition Texts, Museum,
Distraction, Visitor Behavior, Visitor Study
These days, many museums aim to enhance the visitor
experience through the use of on-gallery digital installations.
One of the returning challenges when developing these
installations is the issue of competition between digital
exhibits and exhibits containing physical objects [1], [2].
Although digital installations are often intended to enhance
visitors’ understanding of, or engagement with a museum’s
collections, visitors often find themselves in a position where
they have to choose whether to focus their attention on the
digital offer, or the physical object itself [3]. Augmented
Reality (AR) can bring object and information more closely
together, as it visually surrounds objects or exhibits with
additional digital content.
Though historically [4] the first AR applications were
developed mostly for outdoor Cultural Heritage sites, [5], [6],
[7] and were cumbersome and bulky, the recent, mass
adoption of mobile, personal, multimedia-capable devices led
to a whole new generation of mobile AR applications for
museums and galleries [8], [9], [10]. The MEanderthal
application, developed by the Smithsonian National Museum
of Natural History (Washington, USA) allows visitors to
examine what they would look like as prehistoric humans
through a powerful morphing application. The Museum of
London (London, UK) Street Museum app allows visitors to
overlay images from the museum’s photography collections
on present day London street scenes [11]. The Van Gogh
Museum (Amsterdam, the Netherlands), used AR to assist
visitors visualize x-rays, infrared and ultraviolet captures on
top of original paintings [12]. More recently and within the
framework of the CHESS EU project, museum visitors at the
Acropolis Museum (Athens, Greece) were able to visualize
the original colors of archaic Greek sculptures, using portable
devices [13]. There is a wide range of potential uses of AR for
museums and Cultural Heritage settings [14], using as a point
of reference, the real, physical object that can be augmented
with different types of media: 2D images and animations, 3D
visual overlays and animations, text, audio and of course
hyperlinks to relevant online content [15].
Until recently, creating AR experiences required
advanced programming skills, forcing most museums to
outsource the development of these types of experiences,
resulting in relatively high production costs. Today, creating
AR experiences has become easier, because of the arrival of
various AR engines or creators, such as Layar, Aurasma,
InstantAR and Metaio Creator.
These engines facilitate the
production of an AR experience by asking users to simply
digitally link images of the objects that need to be augmented
with the required AR content, for example through the use of a
drag and drop interface. By using an off-the-shelve AR
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engine, creating and updating AR experiences has become
feasible and affordable for many museums.
However, the creation of the actual experience is not the
only costly element related to the use of AR in the museum
environment. AR installations are generally perceived as
reliant on high-quality visual content. This content cannot be
made in-house by most museums. Its production is time-
consuming, and therefore costly, especially when outsourced.
If the availability and production costs of high-quality visual
content has been prohibiting heritage organizations to embrace
the use of AR, it is relevant to ask whether simpler, cheaper
forms of content could be a suitable alternative. For example,
textual content can be, and is being, produced in-house by
most heritage organizations. If simpler forms of digital content
can prove to be a suitable content-type for meaningful, object-
centered AR experiences, creating these type of experiences
could become feasible for many smaller and medium-sized
museums across the world; it could also allow them to
experiment and become familiar with AR applications prior to
engaging in long-term projects, which are often demanding in
terms of budget, infrastructure and human-resources.
The study described in this paper explores how visitors
respond to and engage with an object-focused AR installation,
called the Loupe, which was developed as part of the meSch
project. This paper will explore how visitors engaged both
with the content of the Loupe and the objects that were
included in the AR experience. The content of the Loupe was
almost exclusively created in-house by the Allard Pierson
Museum (APM), the archaeology museum of the University
of Amsterdam, the Netherlands, with support from Waag
Society within the framework of the EU meSch project [16].
The goal was to see if simpler forms of digital content can be
effectively combined with AR. Consequently, the content
included in the Loupe consisted mainly of small chunks of
text, two 2D animations, three images and one audio file.
During content production, as well as data analysis, this study
relied on existing research on the behavior and text-reading
habits of visitors in object-centric museum spaces.
For decades, academics and museum professionals have
studied the behavior of museum visitors inside the exhibition
space, including the way visitors interact with museum text.
The outcomes of this body of research and the best practices
that arose from it, however, rarely directly influence studies
focusing on visitors’ interaction with text-based, digital, in-
gallery installations. Rather than referencing existing
knowledge of visitor behavior in a similar context, the
museum space, these studies often refer to research on the use
of similar media, such as touch screens or mobile apps, mostly
conducted in the field of Computer Science. This paper will
give an overview of the museological research that has been
carried out over the past decades, analyzing visitor behavior in
relation to objects and texts, with an emphasis on museum
displays of archaeological or historic collections. It will then
give a description of the Loupe, including information about
the way requirements for ‘good museum text’ informed the
content development for the Loupe. In addition, it will analyze
if and how the findings of previous research on visitors’ on-
gallery behavior correspond with the outcomes of this specific
study. This might be a step towards better understanding how
the restrictions and possibilities of a chosen medium, text label
or handheld AR device, can influence the way visitors engage
with the textual information it provides, as well as the objects
the text refers to. Finally, this paper will reflect upon the
potential of text-based object-focused AR content as a
relatively cheap yet meaningful complement and alternative to
rich visual AR content for medium sized and small museums
that are dependent on in-house content creation.
Traditionally, museum professionals communicated with
their audiences through only a limited number of media, of
which objects and text, apart from face-to-face interaction
with a member of staff, were the most prominent. This triangle
of visitor, object, and textual information still often forms the
basis for visitors’ interaction with object-centric museum
displays. Of course, this interaction triangle forms only a part
of visitors’ experience in the museum [17], [18], [19], but
when exploring the use of digital media on-gallery, the
relationship between visitor, object and information should
certainly be taken into account.
In the 19th century, the main museological narrative,
particularly in non-art museums, explained the world to
museum visitors through a story of progress, order and
hierarchy. This story was told primarily by grouping objects in
certain ways, and only limited additional textual information
was provided [20]. In the 20th century, the taxonomic display
of objects fell out of fashion and museums instead favored
more complex messages and storytelling [21]. At the same
time, the use of text in museum exhibitions increased
significantly [22]. This medium being so ubiquitous has led to
a considerable body of research on the way visitors engage
with and use museum texts [23], [24], [25], [26], [27], [28],
[29]. Consequently, it has inspired a series of best practices
that, although not always applied in museums, are considered
to facilitate optimal use of texts by visitors during their
museum visit. These best practices, as well as the findings
related to general visitor behavior on-gallery, have informed
the creation of both concept and content of the Loupe as
described in this paper.
Many studies that have analyzed visitor behavior in
traditional museum settings have identified an important
discrepancy between the way museums convey messages
through the display of objects and text, and the way most
visitors use an exhibition space. Often, museums design their
exhibitions, be they chronological or thematic, as a linear
experience, similar to reading a book. Most exhibitions,
therefore, have a beginning, a middle consisting in various
chapters, or themes, and an end. However, visitors rarely
follow this linear approach and move through the space in a
seemingly random way [17], [24], [30]. Within this general
behavior pattern, several researchers have identified behavioral
differences within two, often small, subgroups of visitors.
The first subgroup distinguishes itself by spending a
comparatively large amount of time engaging with the
exhibition’s physical or textual content. Serrell refers to these
visitors as ‘diligent visitors’ [24], Bitgood and Patterson
describe them as ‘motivated’ [25]. Their research implies that
these visitors are somehow more intrinsically motivated than
other visitors, for example because of a personal interest in the
subject matter. The second subgroup of visitors that show
alternative behavior are called ‘skilled visitors’ by Rounds
[30], whereas Falk and Dierking use the word ‘experienced’ to
describe this type [17]. Their behavior is described as more
efficient and focussed [17], and one could argue that as a
consequence their visit is more satisfactory [30]. These studies
imply that, over time, people who visit museums can develop
certain skills that can help them make sense of the museum
environment and optimize their use of it. Understanding
visitors’ on-gallery behavior can inform our analysis and
expectations of their use of digital installations. For example,
does this use seem to match existing visiting patterns, or does it
move visitors to use the exhibition space in a distinctively
different manner? Both motivation and experience seem to
have impacted the outcomes of the Loupe study, as will be
discussed in section VI. Furthermore, for this study one
specific aspect of visitors’ behavior in the museum space
requires further examination, namely their use of on-gallery
A. Reading Text
Much research has been dedicated to understanding how
visitors use textual information on gallery and how they decide
what to read. As a consequence, numerous descriptions of best-
practices have emerged. This paper will try to identify those
findings related to reading behavior and ‘good writing
practices’ that are not related to the physical text label as such,
but that refer to reading and textual interpretation more
generally, expecting they might also hold true for digital
museum texts.
As discussed earlier, visitors rarely follow an exhibition
narrative as is intended by the exhibition designers. Most
visitors tend to stop at a limited number of exhibition elements,
such as objects or text labels [24]. Rounds [30, pp. 391]
describes visitors as “strategic agents – as people who are up to
something, and who tailor their behavior to fit their present
goals and situations”. Understandably, the fewer texts visitors
read, the less likely they are to capture the main narrative of an
exhibition or exhibit. Bitgood points out two aspects that
influence whether or not visitors read texts: Firstly, visitors
have a preference for looking at 3D objects and therefore are
more likely to read texts that refer directly to an object.
Secondly, reading a text requires attention. Attention has
focusing power, it helps visitors focus on a specific exhibit or
exhibition element. However, attention is also selective, a
person can only pay attention to one element at a time, and the
total amount of attention a visitor can pay is limited [26].
The limited amount of time and attention visitors bring to
an exhibition force them to make decisions as to which texts to
read and which texts to ignore. Visitors are more likely to focus
on objects or texts that are salient, or distinctive [26]. They are
less likely to spend time on displays or texts that do not provide
near-instant gratification [24]. If information is provided as a
series of shorter texts, more visitors are likely to read them than
when the same text is provided on a single text panel [25].
Texts can be made easier to read by using short, uncomplicated
sentences without sub-clauses or jargon [26], [28]. Other
techniques that could increase ‘cognitive-emotional arousal’
are asking questions, identifying high-interest content, using
mental imagery, advising visitors what to look for in an object,
and providing a clear message [26]. A study by Bitgood and
Paterson showed that visitors who engaged in reading text
labels also spent more time looking at the objects the labels
referred to [25]. This would suggest that, rather than being
distracting, museum text can encourage or facilitate object-
visitor interaction.
The Loupe is one of the prototypes that have been
developed within the meSch project [31]. It has the form of a
wooden magnifying lens in which an iPhone is enclosed. The
visitor uses the Loupe to examine museum artifacts and
exhibits more closely. The camera of the iPhone runs an
image recognition algorithm that recognizes the objects for
which content is available. When one of the objects included
in the application is recognized, digital content, such as text,
images or animations, appears on the Loupe’s display. Several
types of intuitive interaction metaphors have been developed
for the Loupe (i.e. shaking the loupe, tilting to the left or to the
right, or zooming) and can be mapped with different
functions. Currently, an easy to use authoring tool is being
developed that allows museum professionals to create their
narratives for the Loupe, among other devices, using “recipes”
[32]. The Loupe could be used in two ways. Firstly, it could
facilitate visitor-led exploration of individual objects,
providing additional information about an artifact upon
request. Secondly, the Loupe could offer visitors a thematic
tour. For this study, AR content could be developed for only a
limited number of objects on display. Previous studies at the
Allard Pierson Museum where AR content was available with
a limited number of objects had shown that many visitors
found it challenging to identify the ‘augmented’ objects,
despite the use of clear indicators and markers. Therefore, it
was decided to develop a dedicated tour as part of this study,
guiding visitors from one ‘augmented’ object to the next.
A series of validation studies of the Loupe with museum
visitors and museum curators alike, had been conducted in
three museums; Museon (the Hague, the Netherlands), the
APM, and the National Museum of History (Sofia, Bulgaria).
One of the recurring research questions that emerged during
these studies was related with the issue of attentional balance
of the visitors. More specifically, the museum curators
encouraged us to further explore how the attention and focus
of visitors is distributed between the Loupe and the physical
objects included in the Loupe’s offer. The validation studies at
Museon and the National Museum of History had used
children as their target audience. During these studies it
became clear that children were easily distracted by the
challenge of finding the object, paying little attention to either
the content or the physical objects as a result. Because of this,
and because the main audience of APM consists of adults, this
study focused on the use of the Loupe by adults instead.
Alongside this question about attention balance, the APM
wanted also to experiment with simpler forms of digital
content, to be delivered through the Loupe (text, 2D images
and animation, audio). Particular emphasis was given on the
role of text when combined with a mobile AR application.
Having these two questions in mind and after carrying out
a series of tests in the APM, a final selection of objects to be
included in the tour was made. Limitations of the object
recognition software were also taken into consideration at this
stage. For objects to be easily recognized, they have to be well
distinguishable from their surroundings, for example through
contrast and clear lighting. In addition, it is important that the
camera image that is offered to the AR software is unlikely to
change from one moment to the next. Changing reflections or
shadows, for example from sunlight, and showcases that have
glass on all sides, providing the possibility of other visitors
stepping into the picture, should be avoided. To facilitate
identification of the objects that were part of the tour, it was
decided to choose objects that could all be found in the same
showcase. From this case, themed ‘Ancient Greek gods and
heroes’ (Fig. 1a) a series of six objects, four ceramics and two
statuettes, was chosen. The AR tour highlighted an additional
story within this showcase, which contained eighteen objects
in total; the story of the “Children of Zeus”. For each object
approximately five to six chunks of text were available. One
audio file, two 2D animations and three images (Fig. 1d) were
also included in the tour.
Though the Loupe is a prototype mature enough to
accommodate any type of digital content with which a
museum artifact can be augmented – including a powerful
zoom-in feature that allows visitors to zoom-in museum
artifacts’ details – all by allowing the use of different
interaction metaphors that can be coupled with different
functionalities for the museum visitor, such as tilt left, tilt
right, tilt backwards, tilt forwards, and shake, in this study our
aim was to keep the interaction metaphors as simple as
possible and experiment with types of digital content usually
widely available to museums and Cultural Heritage
A stand where visitors could pick up the Loupe and read
instructions on how to use it was installed next to the
showcase. Study participants were asked to approach the
showcase and read the instructions. They would then pick up
the device. When the Loupe was held upright for the first
time, a small introductory text appeared on the screen. This
informed visitors that an outline, matching the shape of the
object the visitor had to look for, would appear on the screen.
Once the outline appeared (Fig. 1b), the visitor had to detect
which object matched the outline displayed on the Loupe.
Visitor validated their choice by trying to match and align the
virtual outline with the object on display. Upon a successful
match, the outline would pulse and then fade out (Fig. 1c), to
be replaced by the digital content for that specific object. For
each object, at least 5 to 6 short chunks of text and sometimes
images of objects with iconographic parallels were available.
To navigate through the content, visitors could tilt right to go
forward in the narrative or left to go back. After the last piece
of content for a specific object had been shown, a new outline
would appear, prompting visitors to identify the next object in
the tour. For a visitor going through all the content, the tour
lasted approximately 15 (+/- 5) minutes.
V. E
The study described in this paper took place over a period
of seven days. In total 22 participants were recruited through
the Friends of the APM, among the University of Amsterdam
library staff and through the use of social media. Some of
these participants were single visitors, others were part of a
visiting couple. The study consisted of four phases. First,
participants were given a verbal introduction to and
explanation of the study, after which they filled out a pre-visit
questionnaire consisting of questions related to demographic
data, as well as questions about their general preferences in
relation to museum visiting and the use of technology.
Secondly, participants were observed using the Loupe in the
museum. After using the Loupe, each participant filled out a
second questionnaire, which focused on their experience of
and appreciation for using the tool. Finally, a semi-structured
interview with each visiting entity, either the individual or the
couple, was conducted, mostly focusing on the relationship
between the participants, the object and the content of the
Loupe. Unfortunately, it was not possible to conduct this
interview with all participants to the study. In total, fifteen
interviews were conducted with twenty individuals; five
interviews were double interviews, with interviewees who had
used the Loupe together. As described previously, the
emphasis of this paper will lie on participants’ engagement
with the objects and the Loupe’s content, specifically the
textual content that was provided in the tool.
A. Participants’ Profiles
The characteristics of the recruited participants, as collected
through the pre-visit questionnaire, mostly matched those of
the museum’s regular visitors. The higher age ranges were well
represented, with twelve participants aged between 45 and 64
and an additional three participants over 65. In addition, six
participants were aged between 18 and 24 and the age of one
individual lay between 25 and 34. The 35 to 44 age bracket
was not represented. Fifteen women and seven men
participated in the study. Twelve participants took part in the
study together with a partner, which resulted in six couples and
ten individual users taking part. All participants were frequent
museum-goers, with sixteen of them visiting a museum four
times a year or more and the other six visiting a museum two
or three times a year. Fifteen participants confirmed that they
would usually visit a museum together with friends or family.
The others generally visited museums alone. Nineteen
participants indicated they were interested or very interested in
Greek mythology.
All participants could be described as digitally literate, with
nineteen out of 22 indicating they used the Internet on a daily
basis and twenty saying they felt confident of very confident in
using digital applications and devices, such as smartphones,
tablets and PCs.
Of the 22 participants that took part in the study, seven
were a member of the Friends of the Museum, all of whom
were 45 years or older. Friends of the museum are known to be
familiar with the museum’s collections. Among these seven
Friends, the gender balance was more equal, with three men
and four women taking part, in comparison to four men and
eleven women among those who were not a Friend of the
Fig. 1a-1d: The Loupe and the study set-up.
B. Museum Interpretation preferences and the Loupe
Before discussing the potential for the Loupe to strengthen
the visitor-object-information triangle, this paper will briefly
look at the general museum interpretation preferences of the
visitors involved in the study and their appreciation of the
Loupe as an interpretation device. One of the questions in the
pre-visit questionnaire inquired after people’s preferences with
regards to museum interpretation tools by offering a list of
options of which one or more could be chosen. Interestingly,
paper-based textual media, such as text guides, books and
brochures were favored most. Half of the participants, eleven
out of 22, chose at least this interpretation type from the list.
Audio guides proved to be almost as popular and were chosen
by ten participants. Besides these two most popular
interpretation tools, the preferences of Friends and non-friends
diverged. The third most popular tool with Friends was the
guided tour, with three out of seven friends favoring this type
of interpretation. In contrast, non-friends seemed to be more
favorable towards onsite interactive kiosks and displays. This
option was chosen by six non-friends, but only two Friends of
the museum also liked this option.
Both the interview results and the questionnaire data clearly
show that participants were positive about the Loupe. In
thirteen of the fifteen interviews, it was stated that the Loupe as
a tool had added value for the museum visit. Twelve interviews
had it confirmed that the content provided by the Loupe offered
added value. In the questionnaires this general positive attitude
towards to the Loupe was supported by answers related to
gaining knowledge and understanding. Eighteen out of 22
individuals confirmed that using the Loupe helped them better
understand the museum objects included in the tour, while
nineteen said the Loupe helped them better understand what
was depicted on the objects. Also in the questionnaire, despite
the high level of existing interest and knowledge on the subject
of Greek mythology, all participants but one indicated they had
learned at least one new thing about Greek mythology they
didn’t know before, and twenty had recalled at least one thing
they had learned in the past.
C. Information, Visitors and Objects
When analyzing the triangular relationship between the
Loupe, the visitors and the objects on display, it becomes clear
that this relationship is both complex and highly personal. In
the questionnaire participants were asked to what degree they
agreed or disagreed with the following statement: Using the
Loupe distracted me from the original works of art. This
question received mixed responses. Almost half of the
participants, ten out of 22, agreed, while one person strongly
agreed with this statement. However, seven gave a neutral
response, while four strongly disagreed with the statement. The
fact that many participants appreciated the Loupe as a tool,
suggests that the sense of being distracted from the original
objects is not necessarily viewed to be negative, or can at least
be counterbalanced by other factors, with a positive experience
as a result.
A more detailed view of this seeming contradiction
between being distracted from looking at the objects, but
nevertheless valuing the use of the Loupe, arises when taking
into account the interview data. Of particular interest are those
participants who describe the Loupe as distracting them from
the objects. When asked whether they felt the Loupe invited
them to look at the objects, five out of seven interviewees from
this group responded positively, or partly positively. This
indicates that the Loupe could be experienced as both a
distraction, as well as a tool that helps one look at objects, at
the same time. Several of these interviewees reflected on the
role of the different types of textual content that were offered
by the Loupe. Some content offered mythological narratives
related to the characters depicted on the various objects. Some
content consisted of questions, actively referring to the visual
qualities of an object. These questions were described by
interviewees as inviting visitors to look at the object more
closely and helping them reflect on the related narrative they
had just read. Some also described the Loupe as a tool that
could be used to access extra information, but that is easily
ignored whenever a visitor has more subject knowledge.
When asked whether they felt they had looked at the
objects enough, only one individual was completely negative
and said the textual content was distracting. One individual
described how using the Loupe interfered with the usual first,
perhaps aesthetic, encounter with the object. Instead of first
looking at the object and questioning its physical appearance in
order to gain understanding of the artifact, one could simply
read the provided text. Reading, this individual claimed, was
easier and as a result a visitor would become lazy. However,
this same individual also expressed a desire to use the Loupe
with every object. Here an echo of Bitgood’s attention model
can be heard, in which he describes how attention is limited
and gets depleted over time, suggesting visitors would benefit
from an efficient, what one could call lazy, use of the available
attention [26]. Other individuals mentioned how they had to get
used to the Loupe first, before having attention for the objects
again, or reflected on their personal experience and skills
which meant they found it easy to look at objects and get
information from that experience, whereas others might need
help doing this. One couple reflected on their usual interaction
with objects. One of them explained she would usually spend
more time looking at objects, but knowing less about them,
while the other person said he would usually look at objects
briefly, unless he knew and liked the story that was related to
As part of the interview all participating visitors were also
asked whether they would have spent more time, less time, or
the same amount of time looking at the objects, if they would
not have used the Loupe. Only in three interviews participants
confirmed they would have spent more time looking at the
objects, if they would not have been given the Loupe. One of
these interviews was conducted with a couple, who stated they
would have looked at the objects and discuss what they
remembered of the depicted characters and the myths related to
them. In six interviews, representing eight individuals, the
interviewee(s) stated that they would have spent less time
looking at the objects and in five interviews, seven
interviewees highlighted they would have looked at the objects
in a different way. In one interview, which was part of this
latter group, the interviewees described how the Loupe
highlighted visual elements that they would not have noticed
themselves. Interestingly, six of the interviewees who indicated
they would have spent less time looking at the objects, or
would have looked differently at the objects without the Loupe
had confirmed they found the Loupe distracted them from
looking at the objects when filling out the questionnaire. This
seems to signal that shifting the attention balance in the visitor-
object-information triangle is not necessarily experienced as
being negative.
Throughout the interviews two recurring discussion topics
brought forward by interviewees could be identified. Firstly,
there was the fact that the narrative text did not invite
interaction with the objects the way the questions did. The
second topic that was often touched upon was the way both
personal knowledge and museum-going experience influenced
the way the Loupe was used and appreciated. The way the
second issue in particular was discussed by various
interviewees, for example by reflecting on their personal
experience of looking at objects, or on their knowledge of and
interest in Greek mythology, echoes the description of skilled
or experienced visitors by Rounds [30], Falk and Dierking [17]
and that of diligent or motivated visitors by Serrel [24],
Bitgood and Paterson [25]. As Rounds [30], Falk and Dierking
[17] describe, skilled or experienced visitors are more efficient
and focused during their museum visit, this matches the way
some of the participants reflected on their own visiting
behavior, saying they were very experienced and knew how to
gain knowledge by looking at objects, or indicated they were
familiar with the Greek myths and the characters depicted on
the objects, making it easier for them to ‘read’ the objects as it
were. While diligent and motivated visitors were described as
spending a relatively large amount of time engaging with
objects and associated text [24], [25] some participants to this
study similarly described how they would spend time with
objects, move between reading text and looking at the object,
or would go back to certain objects several times in order to get
a better understanding of them.
Reflecting on the relationship between Loupe, visitor and
objects it becomes clear that visitors with different visiting
behaviors, including diligent or motivated and experienced or
skilled visitors appreciate the Loupe as an interpretation tool,
but used the tool differently. It also shows that an interpretation
tool, such as the Loupe, can shift the balance, particularly for
diligent and skilled visitors, between time spent interacting
with the objects directly and time spent with related
interpretation materials. However, in the case of the Loupe this
shift in balance, noticed by visitors, is not often experienced as
negative. Indeed, visitors highlight how the Loupe provided
unknown information and encouraged them to look at objects
longer, or in new and different ways.
D. The Use of Text in the Loupe
As described earlier, the Loupe primarily contained textual
content and this study aimed to better understand how visitors
responded to this type of content, particularly as part of an AR
tool. In the interview participants were asked how much of the
text in the Loupe they had read. In nine out of fifteen
interviews it was confirmed the interviewee(s) had read all the
text. In three cases most of the text was read and in three more
cases some of the text was read. As said before, when asked
whether they felt the content of the Loupe added value to the
visit, in eleven out of fifteen interviews participants either
agreed or strongly agreed. One individual was of the opinion
that the Loupe added some value and two individuals did not
answer this question. One person suggested the value added by
the content depended on an individual’s personal knowledge or
experience. As well as several questions in the interview
focusing on interviewees’ response to the textual content,
participants themselves also often commented on this emphasis
on text. Some made positive remarks about the narrative nature
of some of the text and several interviewees said that, although
there was more text than would generally be presented on a
text label, the fact that the text was broken up in small sections
meant they were more inclined to read all the text. Some also
mentioned being driven by curiosity to read more after each
short section of text. A number of them referred to what they
called their own impatience with regards to reading traditional
texts in the museum space. The challenge to find the objects
and the fact that information was divided in short sections
helped them overcome this impatience. A few participants
mentioned how they believed the texts were suitable for people
with various levels of pre-existing knowledge, because they
combined a summary of mythical stories, which could be an
entry-level introduction or a brief reminder for those with more
knowledge, with texts that directly related to the specific
objects that invited participants to look more closely. The ease
of combining reading the texts and looking at the objects was
also mentioned.
These responses seem to indicate that indeed text can be a
suitable alternative to high-quality visual content for AR tools.
What they also emphasize is the fact that, at least regular
museum-goers, not only respond well to texts that are written
according to best practice suggestions, but can also identify
some of the elements that are considered to be best practice
without invitation. Short sentences, easy language, referencing
the object and dividing the text in several shorter sections have
all been identified as generally making museum texts easy to
read [25], [26], [28], and were all mentioned by at least one,
but often several of the interviewees. This does not mean,
however, that visual content does not have a very strong role to
play as part of AR experiences. When interviewees were asked
to share the most memorable object or piece of information
they had seen, ten mentioned content that had included an
animation and three identified content that included a sound
clip. When asked what their favorite object was, again nine
interviewees mentioned an object for which an animation was
available. Here it is important to mention, however, that both
animations consisted of simple .gif images. This seems to
indicate that even fairly basic visual content can have a positive
impact on visitors’ experience, which is something museums
with a limited budget could certainly benefit from.
We can conclude that, when engaging with a specific
exhibition element, visitors divide their attention, among other
things, between the physical objects and the accompanying
information. Previous research [24], [25], [26], [30], as well as
the responses from some of the participants of this study all
suggest that text labels are often not thought to be attractive
interpretation tools, and most visitors have a bias towards
interacting with 3D objects [26]. When given the opportunity
to use an AR device, such as the Loupe, visitors’ attention can
shift towards this device. However, as the Loupe study has
shown, textual content can actively encourage users to also pay
attention to the object. In addition, this study suggests that
spending more time looking at a specific object does not
necessarily enhance the visiting experience. The most positive
museum experience seems to combine interaction with the
object itself with time spent engaging with information
associated with the object. This information should provide
visitors with specific information about the object, giving them
a fuller understanding of the object itself. This result of the
Loupe study matches findings of Serrell [24] and Bitgood [26],
among others.
In addition, this study suggests that AR tools can encourage
visitors to read a larger amount of text than they would usually
do, because of the ability to closely link text and object,
because of the interactive element of finding the right objects
and because the text can easily and playfully be divided in
many smaller sections. It also shows that using relatively
simple digital content, such as text and images, for AR
handheld devices can still result in a digital tool that is highly
appreciated by visitors. This potentially puts the development
of AR experiences in the hands of museum professionals in
small and medium sized museums.
Future research might compare the engagement and reading
behavior of visitors when confronted with more traditional
exhibition media, such as text labels, with the expected
behavior as it was described by visitors themselves. This could
be done by evaluating visitor engagement with either a touch
screen application or a paper booklet, containing the same
information as the Loupe AR tour.
1. The research leading to these results has received funding
from the European Union Seventh Framework Program
([FP7/2007-2013]) under grant agreement no. 600851.
2. The researchers would like to thank the staff of Waag
Society, the Curator of the APM, Geralda Jurriaans-Helle,
as well as all the contributing participants, for making this
study possible.
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... The following table (Table 1) is based on digital technologies per cultural application and is described below. Lanir's Mobile Guide [11] CULTURA [12] DRAMATRIC [13] Lost State College [14] iGuide [15] The Reading Glove [16] ARCO Project [17] The Beauty or the Truth [18] Gossip at Palace [19] Střelák's AR guide [20] Through the Loupe [21] SPIRIT Project [22] Vapriikki Case [23] TolkArt app [24] SVEVO App [25] MoMap [26] MyWay [27] exhiSTORY [28] EMOTIVE [29] Cicero [30] meSch project [6] The Stolen Painting [31] WoTEdu [32] Turning Point [33] Sail In CHESS [10], researchers designed and tested personalized audio narratives about specific exhibits in the Acropolis archeological museum, in Athens. Visitors were assigned a predefined profile according to their age and had access to AR content through a mobile app, representing the artifacts in 3D. ...
... Cicero [30] and MyWay [27] are recommender systems that take advantage of DS to promote cultural heritage. In most of the works ( [10,15,16,17,18,20,21,22,23,25,29]), AR apps (for smartphones and tablets), AR smart glasses, or VR headsets are used as technologies to immerse users into 3D environments and engage them into a more participatory interaction with objects. ...
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... This can be an off-the-shelf device such as a mobile phone or tablet, but also a specially crafted object with embedded electronics, whose physical form supports interactivity in different ways. One example is The Loupe ( van Dijk 2019;van der Vaart & Damala 2015), where the AR device took the form of a magnifying glass, and the virtual content was triggered not just by pointing The Loupe towards an object, but also by handling it through a range of physical gestures that made it behave in different ways. ...
Virtual heritage has been explained as virtual reality applied to cultural heritage, but this definition only scratches the surface of the fascinating applications, tools and challenges of this fast-changing interdisciplinary field. This book provides an accessible but concise edited coverage of the main topics, tools and issues in virtual heritage. Leading international scholars have provided chapters to explain current issues in accuracy and precision; challenges in adopting advanced animation techniques; shows how archaeological learning can be developed in Minecraft; they propose mixed reality is conceptual rather than just technical; they explore how useful Linked Open Data can be for art history; explain how accessible photogrammetry can be but also ethical and practical issues for applying at scale; provide insight into how to provide interaction in museums involving the wider public; and describe issues in evaluating virtual heritage projects not often addressed even in scholarly papers. The book will be of particular interest to students and scholars in museum studies, digital archaeology, heritage studies, architectural history and modelling, virtual environments.
... Without knowledge of the underlying mechanism, it is difficult to develop design strategies based on the distributed and fragmental findings of the empirical works. Despite the positive findings of AR effects on presentation flexibility and visitors' satisfaction [9][10][11], previous studies have also suggested that unknown factors might interfere with the interpretation of the AR effects [11][12][13], and further investigation will be required to uncover the relationship between AR design and museum learning. Among the investigations of possible factors on learning effectiveness, studies in educational psychology suggest that the provision of learner control is positively related to learning outcome and process [14,15]. ...
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... A number of modern museums have implemented AR among their exhibits creating more dynamic experiences for the museum visitors. The Museum of London and the Van Gogh Museums are good examples of institutions that have embraced this new technology to create unique exhibits (Van Der Vaart, M., & Damala, A., 2015). The AR systems implemented allowed visitors to observe artwork and items through a different lens, presenting different effects and novel information to the visitor. ...
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... Another example is the Loupe [15]: a wooden magnifying lens in which an iPhone is enclosed. The Loupe is used in the context of a museum visit and allows visitors to examine specific artifacts as if inspecting them with a loupe. ...
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L'articolo discute sul rapporto tra videogiochi ed archeologia virtuale, analizzando il recente stato dell'arte con un approfondimento sul tema dell'accuratezza storica. In questo panorama viene poi presentato il caso studio del videogioco archeologico "A night in the Forum". Si tratta di un Environmental Educational Narrative Game realizzato per piattaforma Playstation VR nell'ambito del progetto Europeo REVEAL seguendo un flusso di lavoro rigoroso da un punto di vista della ricostruzione archeologica e narrazione storica. Abstract Vantaggi e vantaggi dell'archeologia virtuale sono stati a lungo discussi in ambito accademico, formulando basi teoretiche e linee guida da seguire per garantire risultati affidabili e coerenti al dato storico. Sulla base degli studi potremmo definire l'archeologia virtuale come un processo di acquisizione, analisi ed interpretazione finalizzato a ricostruire e simulare il passato mediante l'uso di tecnologie digitali ed un approccio scientifico teorico e multidisciplinare. La continua sperimentazione e ibridazione fra ambiti disciplinari ha portato a nuovi orizzonti di ricerca. Da una parte ha aperto a prospettive e problematiche di ricerca prima impensabili dall'altra ha portato all'ideazione e sviluppo di tecnologie specifiche per il settore culturale. Più recentemente è nato un grande interesse verso quelle tecnologie e media finalizzati a supportare la fruizione del patrimonio mediante applicazioni di realtà virtuale, realtà aumentata, videogiochi, etc, trasformando e adattando il dato scientifico in unità divulgativa. Dopo un inizio incerto si assiste oggi ad un impiego sempre più oculato di questi media all'interno di musei e siti archeologici. Nell'articolo vengono affrontati questi aspetti facendo riferimento in particolare al recente stato dell'arte ma soprattutto al caso studio "A night in the Forum" il videogame per Playstation sviluppato all'interno del progetto europeo REVEAL da VRTron con la collaborazione del CNR ISPC e il supporto del Museo dei Fori Imperiali-Mercati di Traiano. In dettaglio verranno discussi genesi, contenuti e flusso di lavoro utilizzato per la sua realizzazione, dal dato archeologico all'ambiente immersivo.
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Understanding how effective technology adoption is and how well opportunities created by advances in technology are utilised is vital for supporting adoption and development of technology. To this end, we propose an activity-based taxonomy method designed to produce technology adoption insights. The method is applied on adoption of Augmented Reality (AR) technology in the context of art and cultural heritage. Through this, we build an AR taxonomy for art and cultural heritage which we then used to classify 119 AR applications in this domain. The results of classification provide meaningful insight into technology adoption and how it changed compared to reports in the previous edition of this book. To name a few: (i) general lack of support for communication and personalisation activities persist; (ii) the quality of adoption remains below satisfying level, yet some improvements have been made within the past few years; (iii) despite limited immersion capacity, handheld AR systems persist to be the most commonly used systems; and (iv) irrespective of difficult and costly setups, a substantial proportion of classified systems represents spatial AR systems; yet, this ratio recently dropped due to the higher adoption of head-mounted display systems, which is largely limited to the research domain.
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This paper introduces an approach of using mobile Augmented Reality (mobile-AR) in cultural organisations, such as museums and archaeological sites, for information provision and enhancing the visiting experience. We demonstrate our approach by presenting a mobile-AR educational game for iPhones that has been developed for the archaeological site and the exhibition area at Sutton Hoo. This pilot aids visitors’ understanding of the site and its history via an engaging and playful game that connects the site with the British Museum where the objects that have been excavated from the site are exhibited. The paper discusses stakeholders’ requirements, the system architecture and concludes with lessons learned and future work.
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Museums and cultural heritage sites have a notable need to engage visitors in different ways. Within the work of the meSch project, we take the stance that the materiality complements and completes cognition, and therefore a personally meaningful and sensorily rich experience with museum exhibits and place can greatly improve both the visitors’ experience and their appreciation of the museum’s cultural values. By empowering cultural heritage professionals with a technological platform to help them create their own interactive, smart, and tangible exhibitions, meSch aims at making the encounter of digital and material more sustainable in museums. At the same time, it favors the creation of a do-it-yourself community that shares experiences and learns, grows, and develops over time, inspired by concurrent developments in new technology. This paper discusses the current efforts in meSch towards the definition of a general formalism, inspired by co-design activities with cultural heritage professionals, for specifying "recipes" for creating technology-augmented experiences to enhance the museum visit. Ingredients to such recipes include the appropriate description of digital information to be associated to objects and locations in an exhibition, as well as the detailed specification of how visitors’ movements and actions can activate the contextualized presentation of that content.
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The paper presents the new concept of Adaptive Augmented Reality (A2R), employed within the context of the creation of an AR guide for the museum visit. The augmentations provided are not only visual but also acoustic, while the interest of the visitor is also monitored using physiological sensors, so that the multimedia content delivered to the visitor's see-through AR display with which she can interact through gesture interaction can be adapted according to her engagement and interests. A theoretical framework is provided together with an overview of the system architecture. This contribution focuses on the interdisciplinary, collaborative and UC-informed methodology employed for the identification and elicitation of the motivations and needs of the Cultural Heritage professionals as to the potential of the A2R approach for the museum visit.
Conference Paper
The meSch project, Material Encounters with Digital Cultural Heritage, has the goal of designing, developing and deploying tools for the creation of tangible interactives that will connect the physical experience of heritage with relevant digital cross-media information in novel ways. A wealth of digital cultural heritage content is available in on-line repositories and archives, but is used in a limited way and through rather static modes of delivery. meSch enables heritage professionals to create physical artifacts enriched by digital content without the need for specialised technical knowledge. The approach adopted is grounded on principles of co-design, the broad participation of designers, developers and stakeholders into the process, and on a Do-It-Yourself philosophy to making and experimentation. The ambition of the project is to enable the creation of an open community of cultural heritage institutions driving and sharing a new generation of physical/digital museum interactives.
A digital copy of a Le Corbusier drawing supports analysis to a greater level of detail than its paper counterpart, but the feeling of being in the archive, the emotion of touching the same paper as the master, and the smell of dust and years past are what makes the experience unique and unforgettable. The information over object approach has influenced the use of digital technology in cultural heritage ever since computers started to populate the exhibit floor. The intent has been to provide indepth information and to support different learning styles. There is an opportunity for interaction design to take advantage of the visitors' physical experience with cultural heritage and to integrate technology into it instead of creating a parallel and detached digital experience. This needs the right sensibility and is not without challenges.