The inspiration for PMA ExplorAR stems from the concept of cabinets of curiosities and the relationship that museum visitors have with curated collections. While cabinets of curiosities contained dissimilar objects from around the globe, museums are curated to present a thematic experience of artifacts based on content, place of origin, artist, thematic similarities, and more. By combining the cabinets of curiosities with the modern museum experience, we are hoping to provide an application that encourages museum visitors to explore their own interests as they experience the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

What it does

PMA ExplorAR will allow museum visitors to search the collections for hints and puzzle pieces in order complete an investigation surrounding the artifacts within the PMA. Visitors receive experience and level-up based on the volume and variety of artifacts they scan, which encourages them to interact with the collection as a whole instead of limiting themselves to specific galleries. Scanned artifacts can provide both hints and puzzle pieces to the visitor. Hints can be left by the developer or by other players of the PMA ExplorAR application. These hints are meant to guide visitors to relevant puzzle pieces which are contained by thematically related artifacts throughout the galleries. When all puzzle pieces are collected, the player will complete the puzzle and reveal a unique artifact that resides outside the walls of the PMA. Complete all puzzles within the PMA in order to acquire the mystery PMA artifact!

How we built it

We utilized the AR capabilities of Vuforia in the Unity game engine to create this app. Prior to development, we visited the PMA multiple times to conduct a persona analysis and better understand our audience. We created our own UI system to match the aesthetic of the PMA’s exterior. We also use a networking features to add a crowdsourcing element to our game. Players send their hints to a server, and when the players go to view a hint, the server randomly selects a hint from a list hints created by other players. Information displayed for the artwork is pulled from JSON files.

Challenges we ran into

Challenges we faced while designing and developing PMA ExplorAR were numerous. The largest challenge we encountered was having to cut features and re-design a pre-existing concept in order to fit the Hackathon timeline. There were many game mechanics that we were hoping to implement that had to be cut, so we ultimately ended with a new concept! Though we are all part of Drexel University’s GLIDE lab, an additional challenge was being able to work concurrently on Unity builds and implement changes as we progressed in development.

Accomplishments that we're proud of

We are proud that we were able to optimize the application for gameplay. In a previous build, we had the UI in separate scenes to better understand the flow of the game, but that made the app run very slowly. When we optimized the app to run in a single scene in Unity, it fixed a majority of our problems, including the slow run speed.

What we learned

Most of our group is fairly new to app development in Unity, so we have learned a great deal in order to complete this project. We had to learn how to network multiple builds of a game and half of us had to learn how to use Vuforia for AR. We also had to learn how to make builds for mobile devices.

What's next for Augmented Curiosities

Continued development is already planned for future iterations of PMA ExplorAR. We hope to expand the cooperative/competitive experience of the application by integrating leaderboards and hint rating systems. Beyond this, we are looking for Philadelphia-area museum partnerships in order to expand the possible collections in which this application could be utilized.

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