The Microsoft Hololens has found its way into an exhibit at New York’s Armory Show. The holographic viewer is being used at the show to mix physical objects with holograms, and it could be a game-changer for museums and art galleries.
Over the past few years, art galleries and museums have been toying around with technologies to enhance the permanent exhibits they have installed. Up until now that has predominantly meant using projectors to either display digital art on the wall, or use projection mapping techniques to interact with the piece.
The Microsoft Hololens offers a completely different experience. When entering the room at the New York Armory Show, all that visitors will see is a collection of small columns on the floor. It’s only when they don the holographic viewer that they will see the exhibit come to life, showcasing a complete column that has been torn apart. Uniquely, pieces of the column are suspended in the air, as if they have been frozen in time – allowing visitors to walk around and see the small segments that have exploded from the base.
Artsy, an online platform for exploring art from around the world, teamed up with Pace Gallery’s Studio Drift, a design firm based in Amsterdam, to come up with the installation. The company chose the Microsoft Hololens as it offered a realistic ‘mixed reality’ atmosphere, rather one completely immersed in virtual reality.
It was the mixed reality element that really sets this exhibition apart. Using a virtual reality headset, users have nothing to interact with – everything is in a virtual world, and all elements are created digitally. There’s almost a lack of emotion due to this. That’s different with mixed reality, allowing users to see and touch an object that is placed in the real world, and overlay digital objects that interact with those real world objects.
“It’s early days, but in a commercial context, it’s an exciting new path for the art world and the art market,” noted Elena Soboleva, Artsy’s curator for special projects, in an interview with Fortune. “You could easily imagine a collector testing artworks out in their living room or someone exploring a museum exhibit thousands of miles away through a mixed reality experience in their home.”
Much of this could easily be done in virtual reality, although Artsy’s chief technology officer doesn’t believe that the VR approach will replace real world, and tactile museums.
“This project with Artsy and The Armory Show marks Microsoft’s first collaboration in a commercial art context and we’re thrilled to see how mixed reality will allow HoloLens users to experience art in a new way,” added Lorraine Bardeen, general manager for Microsoft HoloLens and Windows experiences.
The show, dubbed ‘Concrete Storm’, ran from March 2-5 at Piers 92 and 94 in Manhattan, New York.