For the next week you can opt to direct a live human being around a new European art museum. Who needs a robot!
The new Museum Aan de Stroom (MAS) in Antwerp, Belgium, has a project that lets web users take a virtual tour of their exhibits.
Nothing unusual here I hear you say - but wait... this virtual tour lets you take "control" of a museum guide, i.e. a human guide, and direct them to the paintings you want to look at! The technique called a "Phygital tour" - a term that doesn't exactly roll off the tongue.
The guide has a special headset and video camera and you control them by clicking on arrows on the web page. You can even "meet" your tour guide on a web page with short videos loops introducing each of the humans involved. You sign up with the guide of your choice and you get a whole two minutes to view the exhibits.
You can get an idea of the overall effect in the video below:
What do you think?
Is it a good idea?
It is clearly labor intensive and it is difficult to see what the museum gets out of it, other than publicity like this. There may also be an attraction based on interacting with a "live" human controlled via the web. However, the advantages of having a robot drone do the same job are obvious. Lower cost and you could allow the virtual visitor to browse the museum even when it was closed at night and on holidays. It might also be better to construct a 3D model that the virtual tour can explore - apart from the shaky quality of the live tour it should be indistinguishable. Or is "live" something you can't video mime to?
Are there other applications of this strange "non-virtual reality"?
The MAS museum seems to have taken technology to its heart with lots of online videos and virtual experiences but the Phygital tour ends on 7th June so if you want to try it out point your browser to take the tour.