Cleveland Museum of Art Makes Galleries Relatable with Digital Interaction

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The Cleveland Museum of Art wanted the ArtLens Exhibition to increase visitorship; to create a fun and engaging environment for visitors with all levels of knowledge of art; and to be the gateway into the museum’s other galleries. To that end, Potion Design created a fully immersive mixed reality experience with 16 games, more than 70 feet of projection, three touchscreens and bleeding-edge software that tracks visitors’ bodies, gaze, and emotions to deliver a groundbreaking new interactive experience.

Nominating Company: Potion Design, New York, New York
Venue: Cleveland Museum of Art/ArtLENS Exhibition, Cleveland, Ohio
Project: Cleveland Museum of Art/ArtLENS Exhibition
Category: Arts, Entertainment & Recreation

BACKGROUND
In 2012, the Cleveland Museum of Art created Gallery One, a new type of museum experience where visitors used a series of touchscreens installed among artworks to better understand the museum’s collection. The experience, while fun, didn’t fulfill the museum’s larger goal, which were namely to increase its visitorship and to be a gateway into the museum’s other galleries. Even more problematic was that the design was closed, meaning none of the art could change, and none of the digital content could change either. The result was an art exhibit trapped in time, which is problematic for museums with loans, light-sensitive objects and more than 90 percent of their collection not on display. Potion was retained to reinvent the experience to be fully updateable (both physically and digitally), as well as deliver on their previously elusive goals. The company rethought the entire experience and ended up changing the hardware, software and even the architectural layout of the space.

CHALLENGES
Potion encountered numerous challenges while working with such new technologies. Digital projectors require the darkest environments to look their best, but our sensors and cameras needed the visitors well-lit for the best experience. This required careful coordination to ensure that light was controlled perfectly between the art, the projectors and the visitors. We also needed to thoroughly vet the art curation in relationship to our games to ensure that there were no cultural insensitivities or misinformation given. And from a software perspective, training our software to accurately recognize emotions in real-time (not a photo), and developing an intuitive interface for visitors to control the games with their body gestures all proved challenging. After all, in a public space, visitors with all different levels of technology literacy are present. It’s critical that the experiences are inclusive and intuitive.

Cleveland Museum of Art Makes Galleries Relatable with Digital InteractionSOLUTIONS
Potion took the approach of Gallery One and inverted it. In other words, instead of a digital gallery with art in it, we created an art gallery with digital in it. The result is an environment that still feels like the rest of the museum, but also offers a significantly different experience. Through 14 different fun body gesture games, visitors are invited to explore symbolism, artists’ techniques, rituals, cultures and emotions. In two other games, they are invited to use different parts of their bodies. In Gaze Tracker, simply staring at a painting reveals how the artist’s intentions overlap with your own gaze. And in Express Yourself, visitors take a rapid fire challenge of reacting to dozens of artworks in 30 seconds to gauge their initial emotional reactions. Then, the visitors are invited to go on a mission to see the work in real life. And everything in the gallery is now updateable.

Cleveland Museum of Art Makes Galleries Relatable with Digital InteractionRESULTS
The new ArtLens exhibition is a phenomenal success. Research findings have shown that visitors are playing ArtLens for more than 9.5 minutes on average and some for more than 20 minutes. Each explore approximately seven different artworks. 88 percent felt more comfortable looking at the art. 70 percent reported looking at the art closer. 94 percent wanted to see the art in person. Visitors also plan to use the skills acquired from playing the games in the museum’s other galleries with different works of art. From the institution’s perspective, the museum now has a robust, updateable system that enables them to keep the gallery current without any knowledge of code needed.

PROJECT PARTNERS
Cleveland Museum of Art
Zenith

Cleveland Museum of Art/ArtLENS Exhibition won a 2018 APEX Award in the Arts, Entertainment & Recreation category.

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