How is 360 and Virtual Reality changing audience engagement with the arts?

Trying the new NextVR camera. Image used courtesy of NextVR. Copyright © 2016.


With the introduction of VR and 360 technology, art has never been more exciting!

More and more artists and museums are harnessing the power of these incredible technologies to create more immersing and engaging experiences for audiences and visitors. Artwork shot using 360 technology capture panoramic images and video that can be used in exhibitions to bring art to life. Visitors sit or stand in the middle of the exhibition room and are able to view the artwork from all angles, as if they are standing within it.  This powerful technology also has the ability to record audio simulation of a pre-existing environment, further enhancing the immersion and intensifying the audience experience.

There are a number of 360-degree VR in use today including live video, previously recorded video/images, real-time rendered video/images and finally, pre-rendered computer graphics imagery (CGI).  Check out this link to find out more about these different types of 360-degree VR and how they are produced. All of these require the use of multiple different cameras in order to capture real-life footage from all angles, this can be an expensive method of bringing art to life as the technology itself costs around $18,000. Yes, you read correctly. However, even though it is an expensive technology, it is a very cost-effective way of increasing audience engagement in the arts. The money will pay off in the long-run. NextVR’s technology can capture an astounding six thousand pixels and is inbuilt with six cameras. Many live sports events and concerts have been recorded using this device, and who knows, maybe in the future you will be able to watch the next FA Cup Final in the comfort of your own bedroom, while still receiving the same immersive experience as being in the stadium.

Art museums are also beginning to utilise technology such as virtual reality to create a unique experience for visitors. They have discovered that there is a decline in the number of visitors visiting museums and correlate this with lack of engagement and are thus working towards using technology to alleviate this. Silvia Filippini-Fantoni suggests that “museums need to engage with new ways of engaging their audiences, particularly the millennial generation, who are more interested in social interaction, participation and self-discovery than more traditional learning.” But it is not just young people, more and more people are using technology to keep in touch with friends, watch films and even read books. Gone are the days of physical books, it’s all about ebooks now. Museums must keep up with current trends and utilise existing technology to create an immersive, personalised experience for all visitors. Last year, The British Museum implemented VR technology to introduce the Bronze Age to its young teenage visitors during an event called ‘virtual reality week’. Young people were encouraged to use Samsung Gear VR headsets to interact with 3D scans of objects from the Bronze Age. The event turned out to be a huge hit amongst audiences and as a result, the museum decided to permanently integrate it into their education programme.

An increasing number of artists are also using emerging technologies in their artwork. Chinese artist and activist, Ai Weiwei recently launched his online exhibition called, ‘Ai Weiwei 360’ in which he utilised the power of 360-degree imagery to present his work online, accessible across a number of devices, from tablets to smartphones creating an immersive tour of the gallery accompanied with commentaries and interviews with Ai Weiwei himself. This exhibition was the first to be captured in photorealistic stereoscopic 3D. In this way, audiences are able to tour the gallery in the comfort of their own homes. Make sure to check out his fantastic online exhibition and see the power of technology for yourself!


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