We Don’t Need No Stinkin’ VR Headsets

On Saturday, the Knight Foundation will be issuing a call “for ideas exploring how arts institutions can present immersive experiences to engage audiences” (disclosure: Knight Foundation has funded projects for my day job and supports tons of stuff in my community.)

In the announcement, Knight Foundation staffer Chris Barr writes about how virtual and augmented reality is already being used by arts organizations on an experimental basis.

From digital overlays of  museum spaces and VR interpretations of surreal landscapes, to artistic interpretations of climate change and digital recreations of fragile Cuban sculpture, artists, museums and other arts institutions are experimenting with these emerging technologies.

What they are looking for is projects in which technologists, companies and artists will partner with museums and performing arts organizations to explore some of the following ideas:

We hope to find innovative uses for this technology, new approaches for moving audiences through these experiences, and opportunities to engage new and diverse audiences.

How can these technologies help us reach new people? How do we make the experience before, during and after putting on a headset delightful? How do we service these experiences efficiently? How should these experiences be distributed and exhibited? How can this new form of storytelling be used for more inclusive stories? How can we use immersive tech to expand the reach of the arts beyond physical locations?

One thing I appreciated was that in asking how to make the experience before, during and after delightful,  they seem to understand that it is the entire experience and not just the technology that provides value.

As much as many of us, myself included, might resent the way the growing prevalence of technology/media is encroaching upon and competing with our practice, this is an opportunity to proactively be part of a conversation and effort at the genesis of the concept and application. The alternative is the current situation where you react to the emergence of a technology or trend.

Which is not to say that anything one might contribute to won’t quickly evolve and be used in a manner you hadn’t intended or conceived. How many of us knew a boxy cellphone would evolve to the point it replaced a watch, iPod, television and even voice conversations are moving to the margins.

When I saw the mention of “putting on a headset” in the passage I cited above, I chuckled because I suspect (and hope) that people will blow the concept of headset based delivery out of the water with the ideas they have.

If you are looking for some context or jumping off points for your own ideas, I have written about a number of projects associated with augmented reality in the past couple years, as well as projects in the Knight Foundation Prototype Fund

If you have an idea germinating,  guidelines will be posted on the Knight Foundation website on July 27. You can sign up for the July 30 informational webinar now.

About Joe Patti

I have been writing Butts in the Seats (BitS) on topics of arts and cultural administration since 2004 (yikes!). Given the ever evolving concerns facing the sector, I have yet to exhaust the available subject matter. In addition to BitS, I am a founding contributor to the ArtsHacker (artshacker.com) website where I focus on topics related to boards, law, governance, policy and practice.

I am also an evangelist for the effort to Build Public Will For Arts and Culture being helmed by Arts Midwest and the Metropolitan Group. (http://www.creatingconnection.org/about/)

My most recent role was as Executive Director of the Grand Opera House in Macon, GA.

Among the things I am most proud are having produced an opera in the Hawaiian language and a dance drama about Hawaii's snow goddess Poli'ahu while working as a Theater Manager in Hawaii. Though there are many more highlights than there is space here to list.


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