Augmented Reality [AR] Postcards with Augment App

One thing I love about making a 3D scan of an object is that you can do multiple things with the resulting digital data. You can post it online for people to examine in their web browser; you can beam it across the the globe (or into space) to someone with a 3D printer and they can effectively replicate it; you can put it in a video game or VR scene

I wrote a couple of days ago about how the 3D scanning that we conducted for the Cuming Museum – a museum with no building (it burned down) but with enthusiastic staff that help people connect with the surviving collection through events, outreach, the web and social media.

In the video above, you can see the 3D models we made popping up from postcards through the clever tech of an augmented reality (AR) app called Augment.

We first started having fun with this tech at a residency at Somerset House way back in March, 2015 as part of The Small Museum. We used the tool to reveal the true colours and (maybe more significantly) the true scale of a Colossal Foot from the British Musem (of which, it turns out, there are many.)

Read more about those adventures – and the genesis of Museum in a Box – on The Small Museum blog.

The steps you need to go through to work this magic is fairly straightforward – upload your 3D model, indicate it’s size, upload your image, indicate it’s size, associate the two and you’re done. Fire up the Augment app (Android / iOS), point it at your image and – boom! – you’ve got some very cool AR happening in front or your eyes!

You can also have some fun with how the image that triggers (or “trackers” as Augment calls them) the AR relates to the 3D model that pops up. While we simply used a couple of collection images as triggers. In our experiments, an image of the poor giraffe statuette in pieces after the fire to trigger 3D of the lovely complete version after careful conservation. The 3D scan of a poor malnourished tiger’s skull from the long defunct Surrey Zoological gardens is triggered by an illustration showing Queen Victoria and Prince Albert visiting the Surrey Zoological Gardens in 1848 – complete with wholly unsafe jack russel terrier in the cage!

By by playing with the combination of image and associated 3D, you can help tell an artefact’s without any words. Of course if you add words and sounds you’ll be hitting all kinds of learning styles. Plenty to explore here….

Try it yourself, print off the images below at A5 size and scan them with the Augment app!

T.

Making a Box that reflects the content

 

The paradigm that Museum in a Box uses to connect objects to related content is simple:

  1. Take a Thing.
  2. Put that Thing on a Brain.
  3. Receive lovely and interesting Content.

You can think of Things in the above scenario as ‘keys’ that unlock the context to the object you’re looking at. Sometimes the Thing is a 3D print of a scanned artefact, sometimes it’s a picture postcard and sometimes it’s fun to leave things a bit ambiguous – what is the Thing you’re holding? How does it relate to the Content you’re listening to?

This is what we explored a bit with Prototype No.13, which you can watch a demo of in the above video.

For this Box, we used some public domain audio from The Internet Archive as the Content and decided to try out a form factor for the Things that reflected what you would be listening to but still leaves a lot to the imagination…

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So in case you’ve not guessed yet, we used the Planets Suite by Gustav Holst for this Box, hence our spherical Content keys/triggers. We sourced some half-spheres of  birchwood from eBay, as this seemed like the easiest way to get an RFID tag inside a globe shape. Polystyrene may have been cheaper but we like the look and feel of the plain wood. We slapped an RFID sticker on one half and used wood glue to join this to its counterpart.

Making this prototype was also a good exercise in testing the limits of our tech. It turns out that smaller RFID tags have (maybe unsurprisingly) a shorter pickup range when offered up to the RFID reader we’re currently using. In a quick test, the small tag would not trigger the audio when housed in our 32mm diameter balls (so their range is less than 17mm). Fortunately, upgrading to 25mm tags extended the range of our wee planets to about 2 or 3cm. We also found out that tags only register on the reader if offered in a near parallel orientation (as in the GIF above).

We re-purposed a gift box to house our Raspberry Pi, tag reader, battery, audio speaker & cables and made a simple insert  with holes to hold the planets in a nice formation and another to suspend them over the RFID reader. (Extra special thanks to my partner and her mum for helping with this!)

All in all creating this Box only took about half a day and we’re very pleased with the results 🙂

T.

How to visit a Museum which isn’t there…


Read more about The Last Giraffe of Walworth on the Southwark Heritage Blog

We’ve been doing some more 3D scanning, this time for the Cuming Museum – a museum based in South London, UK.

Interested in exploring new ways to engage people with the museum’s collection, Judy Aitkin, Heritage Manager for Southwark, contacted Museum in a Box about the possibilities of producing “something 360” for their re-vamped website.

We were, of course, happy to help and paid a visit to their stores to take some 1600 photos of 10 objects from across the museum’s collection…

A Museum With No Public Premises

The Cuming Museum is an interesting case in Museumland – it’s a museum that (currently) has no physical premises. No galleries, no cloakroom, no café – all of these were the unfortunate victims of a fire in 2013 that severely damaged the lovely red brick Town Hall building on Walworth Road that housed the Cuming family collection and artefacts relating to the history of the Borough of Southwark.

Despite not currently having a physical museum to manage, Judy and her team are doing a great job keeping the Museum’s audience up to date via the Southwark Heritage website, Twitter, Pinterest and blog as well as through regular heritage events.

Visit the Cuming Museum’s Sketchfab profile to explore some pretty amazing objects and even download them  to use for non-commercial projects!

cuming-sketchfab
The Cuming Museum on Sketchfab!

If you work at a museum or heritage institution and are interested in learning how to make 3D scans or need something scanned, please get in touch.

T.

Beyond the brain

Before I get rambling, allow me to introduce myself. My name is Charlie and I’m the latest addition to the Museum in a Box crew. I spent some time with George and Tom as a visiting researcher shortly after their transition to the new Bloomsbury HQ in the spring; but now spring has sprung and summer is done I’m lucky enough to have joined as Junior Designer and officially one of the team. On with the post!

It’s been a while since we’ve written about the various goings on at Museum in a Box so I’d like to take a moment to break down a few developments of late.

Up until now the product has revolved around two parts: the Brain (the box) and the artefacts, either 3D prints or 2D postcards. The interaction too has remained relatively unchanged with an object placed on the box triggering audio which provides context to its origins and history. The audio content that plays has often been a unique script written and narrated by one of the team, however as a great deal of our focus is on the box being used within the classroom, providing information around an object is only half the interaction. Seeing as each box is powered by a Raspberry Pi we’ve begun to explore new ways that we can use that to ramp up the fun that users can have with the box.

A box that listens?

When we consider how the box may be used in the classroom one important factor is how it can act as an intermediary between pupil and teacher. We’ve seen how well school pupils react and get stuck-in with the box and its objects, so finding a way for that to fit in with lesson plans and teaching is important. In response we’ve started work on a new component, a recorder box which will contain a microphone and aims to compliment the box and its objects.

We’ve had the idea of being able to record to the brain in our minds for some time and we’ve been asked again and again if a record feature is on the cards. Seeing as it had come up in discussion so often we thought it was time to crack on with a spot of prototyping!

Mocking up a cardboard record interface
Mocking up a cardboard record interface

We begun by mocking up a few cardboard interfaces with various button configurations, as well as postcards which could control what mode the box was in but ultimately decided that if the recorder box is plugged in, and an object is placed on the brain, it will switch to ‘record mode’ and announce just that. The box will then issue a count down and allow the user to record their own description of the object with the options to replay, delete and save their recording. This new recording will now play every time that object is ‘booped’ unless a newer recording is made.

A render considering what form a record box could take.
A render considering what form a record box could take.

The recorder box will alter the way we think of the content associated with any given object, instead of it being a predetermined description, by plugging in the recorder the user can create their own customised audio. With the object descriptions essentially in flux the recorder will lend itself very well to classroom activities where teachers could set unique tasks to objects that pupils can then record over with their own responses.

We’re now starting to talk to teachers, and understand who the product is serving and how we see the record box working both inside and outside the classroom: whether it’s museum staff creating activities for visitors or parents recording stories for friends and family, we’re super excited to be prototyping this new tool and will keep you updated as things develop.