The ubiquity of mobile devices and the advent of augmented reality provide an opportunity to explore the use of interactive design in what is traditionally a difficult educational space: the art museum. The NGA Experience app (shown here on an iPhone but theoretically platform-agnostic) uses augmented reality to populate the art museum with a digital layer of content that is virtually infinite, yet completely optional for visitors. Such an application of AR in the museum ultimately provides a greater level of control and engagement to the museum visitor and enhances his or her opportunity for a meaningful experience without altering the physical space of the gallery.
Using geolocation and image-recognition technology, the NGA Experience application identifies works of art from the museum's collection and displays basic information about the work. The app's focus can be changed by pointing the device elsewhere or by tapping another work of art in view. Tapping the bottom bar reveals general information about the work. As the user approaches the work, points are mapped to the work's surface and can be tapped for detailed information; this approach mimics the docent’s ability to talk about the work on a granular level. Through this application, the museum space is superimposed by a virtual counterpart; yet unlike the physical gallery, the virtual space can be infinitely populated by content that is only visible to willing participants.