Detroit — A new mobile tour at the Detroit Institute of Arts lets visitors stand at the gates of Babylon, use X-ray vision to see an Egyptian mummy and view ancient art in original colors.
It’s called “Lumin,” and it uses augmented reality technology to immerse guests in the art around them, blending a virtual world with the real one. The DIA, in partnership with Google and GuidiGo, is the first art museum in the world to have an augmented reality mobile tour.
“Augmented reality allows the user to see the unseen, imagine art in its original setting and understand how objects were used and experienced in people’s everyday lives,” said Salvador Salort-Pons, the DIA’s director.
On Jan. 25, the “Lumin” tour will be available to guests, free of additional charge. Visitors will use an Android device provided by the DIA to experience the guided tour, which has seven different pieces of art that visitors can interact with.
Jennifer Czajkowski, the DIA’s vice president of learning and audience engagement, said the museum spent $200,000 to develop “Lumin.” She noted costs to expand the tour will be much lower than its startup phase.
Megan DiRienzo, DIA’s interpretive planner, added the experience “provides a great opportunity to contextualize objects that are far removed from our everyday lives.”
One stop on the “Lumin” tour shows a gray piece of pottery. It looks like an empty bowl, but it’s actually an ancient water filtration system. When visitors tap on a piece of pottery, “Lumin” shows what it originally looked like and how it was used.
A major concern for staff at the DIA is that technology does not get in the way of a visitor’s ability to learn and experience art in a more traditional sense.
“Technology should not be a substitute to replace the work of art itself,” Salort-Pons said. “It should be the bridge, the springboard, to understand the works of art.”
Augmented reality requires a screen but guests are still looking at the art in front of them.
Justin Quimby, Google product manager, described augmented reality like this: “It is the ability to put digital objects in the real world.”
Czajkowski said she thinks “Lumin” will reveal details about artwork that give people a desire to set their phones aside and examine it more closely.
The experience will encourage guests to engage with non-digital activities, too, such as labels and brochures.
The DIA plans to only expand “Lumin” to about 15 percent of the museum’s art to prevent visitors from getting absorbed in technology.
“It’s a tool to get people to look closer into reality and find personal meaning in art,” Czajkowski said.