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SXSW Interactive 2016

When Skeletons Come to Life: AR at the Smithsonian

We brought together artists, engineers, scientists, software developers, audio and video producers, and musicians to creatively disrupt how visitors experience the oldest exhibit displays at the Smithsonian Institution. The product, Skin & Bones, is a mobile app loaded with 3D augmented reality, games, and videos. The exhibit is the Bone Hall, a parade of 300 skeletons. Skin & Bones revives a 137 years-old catfish, releases a vampire bat from its mount, uses sound to put users into the ocean and the Congo, and much more. We present the making of, our research on the effects of AR on visitors and how we designed to and tested the predictive power of a theory on experience preferences.

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  1. What is the effect of augmented reality on museum visitors’ experiences?
  2. Skin & Bones was designed to conform to a theory of experience preferences; does this design strategy have predictive power for user behavior?
  3. What is involved in producing a mobile app with augmented reality, games and video and what were the most challenging problems?



Hilary-Morgan Watt, Social Media Mgr, Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History

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