Collaboration Between the Davis Museum and the HCI Lab Reveals Tools that Can Change the Way We View Art

June 25, 2018
Student Interns use augmented reality technology at the Davis Art Museum.

For two years, summer interns from Wellesley’s Davis Museum and Human Computer Interaction Lab have collaborated on new ways to understand art and technology.

The interns met together last Monday in a workshop held at the Davis Museum. One focus of the workshop was the mobile-based app, the Davis., which museum patrons can use to tour exhibits on mobile phones or iPads at the museum and remotely.

Another technological innovation was a novel tool named ARtLens, an application, which has been developed by the researchers of the Wellesley HCI Lab and the Class of 1966 Associate Professor of Computer Science Orit Shaer in collaboration with the Davis’ assistant curator Amanda Gilvin.

To use ARtLens, users wear the HoloLens augmented reality (AR) headset that conveys audio content and video images as the user tours an exhibit.

The workshop focused on the Davis’s African art galleries as a case study. After trying out the mobile app and the augmented reality tour, students discussed how different technologies can support the study of art.  Many of the participants emphasized that they appreciated the interdisciplinary aspect.

There is a long tradition of students exploring technology and innovation to expand access and enhance the experience of engaging with art at Wellesley.

Lauren Futami ’18, a media arts and sciences major, works on the technical end of the ARtLens project, which is still in development. “I worked a lot on the design of how the information is relayed to the user. We wanted to encourage users to explore the other parts of the exhibit as well,” she said.

“I thought that I would just be focusing on the back end part of the project and not be involved with the African art at all, but after seeing how the African art is curated and displayed with so many nuances in mind, it created a lot of layers and subtleties to the project that I realized I needed to be aware of,” she said.

The workshop presented work from the ongoing research project developed by Shaer, former HCI Lab Research Fellow Christina Pollalis ’16 and Gilvin. The project included Professor Andrew Kun from University of New Hampshire and his students who are also collaborators on this project.

Shaer said the project goal was to pursue “an opportunity for students to collaborate across disciplines and develop a holistic view of how interactions with art can be facilitated and augmented by technology.”

Gilvin said the collaboration allowed “students with different skill sets to share expertise with one another and see the outcome of their work.”

Davis Summer Intern Coordinator Grace Owen ’19, said the project enabled her and other interns “to learn from each other and share our opinions and feelings about how new technology can enhance the museum experience,” she said. 

“Our overlapping interests as interns and generally creative people allowed for more insights by combining our knowledge about art history, art, computer science, and design,” she said.