This paper presents synthesized research on where XR is most effective within a museum setting and what impact XR might have on the visitor experience.
It was funded via Re-Living Paleontology, a project which researched learning through differing AR experiences. It was led by researchers from USC’s Rossier School of Education and Institute for Creative Technologies partnered with from the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles. We used three approaches–a project review, expert interviews, and a literature review.
The core questions were:
(1) In what contexts has AR/VR been most successful in heightening the visitor experience?, and
(2) What are the possible outcomes from using XR in museums?
AR was particularly successful in six contexts:
- Outdoor applications
- Timeline shifts
- History museums and historical sites
- Understanding or changing scale
- Inaccessible sites made available
- Representing absence
There was evidence that XR can promote knowledge gain, but not necessarily more so than other methods. Re-Living Paleontology found that learning happened in all test conditions: both the AR and control states. However, the AR conditions in this project were the only ones which led to higher engagement. The outcomes of a sense of wonder, content interest and curiosity, and a deeper sense of place appeared in multiple projects reviews. XR, particularly VR, also was able to bring about deep emotional responses.
Museum professionals considering XR experiences should weigh the potential outcomes and other considerations, specifically cost, dependency on specific hardware and software, physical comfort, privacy, and need to embed the XR experience in a larger contextual experience.
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