The availability of virtual reality -VR- technologies has prompted several museums to go on-line (that is obviously possible without using VR, but VR can provide an immersive experience that is not available by just browsing the web through a screen) to offer a much wider audience the possibility of experiencing the museum and its masterpieces.
The whole point is in this word: “experiencing”. Would an on line experience, mediated by VR be au pair, or at least comparable, to an on-site experience? Whilst most people would agree that being on-site is quite a different thing from being connected through the cyberspace, a significant subset of them is willing to acknowledge that VR can be second best in terms of experience.
Wired published an interesting article that goes a step further: “Virtual Museums challenge the Art’s world status quo” suggesting that the Virtual Experience can actually “add” something that is not present in an on-site experience (although, obviously, you can also adopt VR, and AR, augmented reality, on-site to deliver that to visitors).
For sure, the pandemic has resulted in a lockdown of museums and many of them have searched and experimented different ways, through the cyberspace, to let people visiting. Moving museums to the cyberspace ot let people browse their masterpieces is not new, of course. What is new is the ever progressing technological advances that make for a much better -realistic- experience.
Take the VOMA. It is not a physical museum that is also made accessible on line. It is a virtual museum existing only in the cyberspace (watch the clip). Its creator, Stuart Semple, has dreamed of such a museum for many years and now he feels that the technology has reached a point where it can support this.
You no longer have any limitation, a virtual museum can accommodate as many people as desired, at the same time providing a customised, unique experience to each of them. If there are more masterpieces to show the galleries can be extended, no carpenter work required. No need to package them for shipping nor insuring them.
As technology progresses you might even increase the experience: as an example, haptic interfaces would let visitors to touch a painting feeling the texture of the brush strokes, something that would clearly be a no-no in a physical premises! Notice that these extended experiences might become available to on-site visitors using augmented reality, an example of how virtual reality can feed back into reality.
This brings me to the conclusion we have reached in the Digital Reality Initiative: our future world will be a seamless continuum across atoms and bits and that will become our reality.