Using augmented reality to bring cultural artefacts into new public spaces

Sparta Digital has been working with Manchester Metropolitan University to present a hidden, digital exhibition prepared by the University’s students.

The exhibition, which includes the Manchester Plinth and other augmented reality (AR) art experiences, takes place in All Saints Park from the 8th of June onwards.

Art School students designed digital versions of artefacts chosen from MMU Special Collections – featuring some of the finest examples of the Arts and Crafts movement in Britain – which users can view via an AR digital overlay if they download the Buzzin app and open their camera.

The exhibition will give visitors the ability to interact with art and cultural pieces in an entirely new way.

A new platform 

The Manchester Plinth will launch on July 6th, and be located within the centre of the park – easily accessible from the main entrance.

It deliberately sets up a mediation between the real and the virtual as a type of emergent space in our cities, a space that is currently underinvested as a cultural asset.

The project is the first of its kind in the UK and we aim to revolutionise and champion new ways of engaging with museum artefacts in a virtual reality both locally and globally.

The Plinth will be curated on a seasonal cycle, showcasing the vast array of collections housed in MMU Special Collections.

The first artefact to be showcased on the Plinth, ‘The Casket’, was designed by Mary Houston in 1902 and was purchased from an arts and crafts exhibition in 1903.

Houston exhibited extensively at the Irish Arts and Crafts Society. The Casket was featured almost 25 years ago in a major international exhibition at Manchester Metropolitan’s Holden Gallery in 1994.

A 3D model of The Casket will only be visible for Buzzin app users – presented in augmented reality in the park’s exhibition space.

Manchester School of Art student, Haroon Bilimoria, will also present an augmented reality project that allows smartphone users to scan AR trackers placed around All Saints Park and the University’s Benzie building. Scanning the trackers (also designed by Haroon) will reveal further Special Collections artefacts.

The app can be easily downloaded for free from the Apple App Store and Google Play Store. Once opened, the app will reveal all the unique AR experiences available within the park.

Culture and the Public Realm is one of four key themes for the CityVerve project, and as such we’re committed to exploring innovative ways to experience art and culture in the city.

This initiative shows how technology can enhance the way we see the world around us, and how we can interact with it to improve our daily lives. We’re taking these artefacts out of their traditional museum setting and placing them in the public realm – further increasing their accessibility and introducing them to a wider audience to discover and enjoy.

Finding your way

The Buzzin app not only allows users to experience the city in new ways with augmented reality, but also to explore it with an unlimited choice of points of interest.

Since people visiting the city for the first time may have limited knowledge about it – and might feel disorientated during their journey – Buzzin welcomes them with a quick scan of the city highlights. Moreover, recommendations can be made based on personal requirements, which makes the experience even smoother!

These new features come after the first phases of the City Concierge use case within CityVerve, which included activations at last year’s Pride celebrations, as well as the aforementioned Chinese New Year festivities.

June 05, 2017 in News

Tune in to CityCast, the smart cities podcast from CityVerve