In an increasingly digital world, more and more everyday experiences are being mediated by technology—from shopping to communicating to organizing every aspect of life. But as technology goes from being extraordinary to expected, how can it be used to engage people in new and surprising ways?
This is the question that arts institutions and museums are asking as they vie for audiences’ time and attention. And it was the impetus behind The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation—a Miami-based non-profit fostering informed and engaged societies through investments in journalism, communities, and the arts—putting out a call for ideas earlier this month that asks: “ In what new ways might arts institutions engage audiences through immersive experiences?”
Bringing immersive technology to life
After receiving 500 submissions, The Knight Foundation selected five projects—all leveraging a variety of immersive technologies like virtual, augmented, and mixed reality—to share a $750K investment and support from Microsoft to bring their concepts to life.
The projects include the American Museum of Natural History transforming collections data into interactive experiences; The Colored Girls Museum creating virtual exhibits around the world with the Center for Digital Humanities at the University of Arizona; the Japanese American Museum of San Jose building an AR experience to reveal the multi-ethnic history of San Jose’s Japantown; the Museum of Art and Design at Miami Dade College incorporating immersive technologies into its programming; and the Museum of the Moving Image (MoMI) producing a VR documentary experience with Scatter.
Lila Tretikov, CVP of AI and Mixed Reality at Microsoft, shares her predictions for the future of these technologies during a session with Knight Foundation grantees.
Knight Foundation grant winners shared their plans to use technology to create immersive experiences.
Carl Goodman of the Museum of the Moving Image in Queens, New York, takes fellow Knight Foundation grantees through his winning proposal.
Brian Foo, a data visualization artist and analyst at the American Museum of Natural History, explores Microsoft tech at the Visitor Center on the Microsoft campus in Redmond, WA.
Founder of The Colored Girls Museum, Vashti DuBois, explores the new HoloLens 2 during her visit to Microsoft's main campus with other Knight Foundation grantees.
There’s huge potential for immersive tech in this field because it’s so experiential and so much of what art institutions offer is built around experience.Chris Barr, Director of Arts and Technology Innovation, Knight Foundation,
In addition to funding from Knight, the organizations will receive optional coaching from Microsoft’s mixed reality team, access to Microsoft and partner technology, and the opportunity to be featured across Microsoft marketing channels.
“The selected institutions receiving new support from Knight are exploring and paving the path towards a new era of creativity, one that will allow humanity to transcend boundaries across physical and digital, memory and imagination, time and space, science and art,” says Lila Tretikov, corporate vice president of AI Perception and Mixed Reality at Microsoft.
Why immersive technology?
Chris Barr, Director of Arts and Technology Innovation at the Knight Foundation, believes the time is ripe for arts institutions to experiment with immersive technology. “Across the board, arts institutions are hungry to improve their use of technology to connect with audiences,” he says “But limited know-how and resources are inhibiting experimentation and success.”
The hope is that the investment from Knight and support from Microsoft will bridge this knowledge and resource gap, giving museums a powerful tool to tackle attendance challenges.
Mira Lane, who runs the Ethics & Society Team within Cloud & Artifical Intelligence at Microsoft, is a technologist and artist who leant her support to the Knight Foundation challenge. She believes that beyond boosting attendance, immersive technology can actually help visitors have a deeper, more meaningful experience.
“How can we create something more interactive? How can we create a dialogue or move people in a way that it alters them?” she asks. “Immersive technologies can do that. They can put you in someone else’s seat and build empathy through visual and auditory storytelling.”
How can we create a dialogue or move people in a way that it alters them? Immersive technologies can do that.Mira Lane, Cloud & Artificial Intelligence, Microsoft