The 2019 Reality Virtually Hackathon corresponded with the second anniversary of the Women's March. The five of us came to the hack ready to engage with a community of which we love being a part. We didn't intend to form an all-woman team but as we discussed the fourth-dimensional affordances of the Magic Leap headset an exciting idea began to form and we had to pursue it together.

What it does

The average museum goer spends 17 seconds viewing an art piece* and rarely has the chance to dive into the mists of the history of a work. Demistified will plunge a viewer into the world of an art work and the context of its creation within the gallery viewing experience, hopefully creating a longer, educational engagement with works of art. This format will give those extra viewing seconds to women and historical figures depicted in art who have been marginalized or overlooked. Demistified immerses the viewer in the contextual history of the piece. It is not simply animating the painting, instead the interaction gives life to a world of related archival materials, rarely viewed by the public such as fragile historical garments, ephemera and other difficult-to-display pieces.

*Art viewing study at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NYC

How we built it

For the hardware and interaction there was no question that the Magic Leap’s hands-free, immersive augmented reality capabilities was the main mechanic we wanted to use. We story-boarded the elements of research we were able to gather about our chosen art piece. From there we began searching for cc licensed assets such as 3D scans of garments and objects, archival photographs and collecting audio effects to complete the immersive experience.

Challenges we ran into

The image tracking wasn’t as high fidelity as we were hoping but our developer thinks that we can combine the spatial computing room mesh generation with image tracking so that the staging of the augmentation is consistent and delightful in the future.

Accomplishments that we're proud of

Proud that we have a strong proof of concept that was merely constrained by time. It’s going to be really special when we can spend even more time making the experience rich. Really happy that we got to focus on fine arts in the context of technology. We’re pretty proud to be an all-women team.

What we learned

We all learned how to do a VR/AR/XR. Two of us on the team learned how to do a hackathon! But we also learned that Magic Leap’s AR needs a narrow range of dark colors for assets to be viewed satisfactorily. The constrained field of view is something that needs to be kept in mind for both Unity setup and interaction planning for the Magic Leap.

What's next

An exhibition to test the full extent of the possible experiences, ideally at the Boston MFA where our demo painting is currently on view. Should application in a real museum setting prove effective we would then pursue creating multi-contributor AR platform. This would make it possible for museum curators to create these experiences and users to do research and unearth Creative Commons archives. We would also like to take advantage of the Magic Leap web platform as outlet for art lovers who do not live near art institutions.


6th Floor, MPR, NW Corner

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