The BBC is Launching its First AR App, Designed to Turn Your Living Room Into a Museum

By Tom Pritchard on at

To mark the launch of Civlisations, a new series dedicated to arts and culture, the BBC is launching its first augmented reality app to put museum pieces and exhibitions into your phone to project onto the world around you.

The app is a collaboration between the BBC and 30 museums across the UK, with members of the R&D team travelling the country to scan different artefacts for the app. The app itself will launch alongside the series, updating each week after new episodes have been broadcast.

The idea being, of course, is for people to experience and interact with the different artefacts in ways they couldn't normally do, and without having to travel up and down the country to visit every single museum featured in Civilisations.

The app also features a 'magic spotlight' feature that lets app users uncover more about each artefact, with annotations, audio, and imagery explaining things in more details. Other features included are an x-ray feature to see inside certain artefacts (like an Egyptian sarcophagus), restoration that lets you "rub through he layers of history", and navigation which lets you use a holographic globe to browse each exhibition based their geographical location.

If AR isn't your thing, the app will still let you explore everything on offer in a more traditional way.

While not related directly to the Civilisations app, the R&D team have also been working on a number of tools to enhance organisations wishing to take advantage of them. The first, called SeenIt, lets museums and their guests produce content that can be sent to the app and published as user-generated content.

There's also a 360-degree video tool called EEVO that lets those same museums 360-degree videos of their collections complete with hotspots and 3D audio features. Finally there's SOMA which is being designed to work alongside the Civilisations Festival, due to take place this Spring. It's designed to let organisers produce live broadcasts of talks, panel discussions and Q&As in professional quality. It involves a browser-based tool that lets a single remote operator seamlessly cut between pre-recorded video, audio, and graphics, plus any number of cameras.

The Civilisations app will be available for Android and iOS, and will launch alongside the Civilisations series that's expected to arrive this Spring. You can read more about the work that's gone into making it here.


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