New project exploring Virtual Reality in museums

20th July 2021
UCL Art Museum

Virtual Reality in museums project image

New Knowledge Exchange project between the Bartlett, UCL Culture and tech start-up Kagenova explores Virtual Reality (VR) in Museums.

We are excited to announce a newly funded knowledge exchange project exploring VR in museums led by UCL Culture with The Bartlett Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis (CASA) and AI technology start-up Kagenova, founded by UCL scientists.  
The project enables these highly specialised teams to come together to share ideas, experiences and skills to support innovation in VR in the museum sector.  
Kagenova has developed new technology out of the exploration of the unknown horizons of the night sky by UCL scientists in astrophysics. They're developing technology to provide photo-realism and interactivity in VR, at the same time and at scale. These new immersive technologies are powered by Kagenova’s geometric AI techniques, which are tailored specifically to VR. "We're excited by this knowledge exchange partnership to help explore how technology could be used to support cultural exhibitions and make them more accessible", said Jason McEwen, Founder and CEO of Kagenova, who is also a Professor of Astrophysics at UCL. 
The collaboration explores the ways in which virtual exhibitions captured in this way can enhance the student learning experience (blended and online). This is for the benefit of both UCL and the wider Higher Education community, as well enabling the general public to engage with collections in new ways, wherever they are in the world. The findings from this project will be particularly beneficial for smaller museums, who often don’t have the budget or infrastructure to compete with national museums when developing new digital products and services. 
The collaboration with Kagenova enables UCL Culture to experiment with next generation 360VR technology. UCL’s museums have been pioneering collections and exhibitions-led interdisciplinary research and inquiry for over a decade. “Our exhibitions are integrated into the learning experience in different ways and we want to bring this pedagogical know-how into conversation with technology in a way that can bridge students’ onsite and remote learning experiences as well as connect with our remote audiences”, says Dr Nina Pearlman, Head of UCL Art Collections, who has been the strategic lead for this project. “Collaboration supported by knowledge exchange funding is key to being able to identify novel ideas that can help us design better solutions, services and experiences to meet our current challenges.”  
Researchers in UCL CASA have been exploring virtual environments for many years with a focus on technological innovation and accessibility, nurturing the next generation of developers and technology innovators. Professor of Digital Urban Systems, Andy Hudson-Smith, stated that: “The collaboration brings the ability to explore the edges of the technology, from multisite portals through to 3D objects embedded in the panoramic scenes and integration into emerging metaverses. All with a direct loop back into teaching and research at UCL”. 
Building on UCL’s strength in innovation, the learnings from this project will be disseminated and shared across cultural and technology networks, social media and press. Without this project, these learnings would be either logistically impossible or prohibitively expensive to achieve individually. 
This knowledge exchange project is supported by UCL’s Higher Innovation Fund (HEIF), managed by UCL Innovation & Enterprise. The partnership between UCL Culture, UCL CASA and start-up Kagenova has been facilitated by the Business and Innovation Partnerships team within UCL Innovation & Enterprise. 

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