Czech National Museum's fin whale comes alive with new app

A smartphone app now offers museum visitors eight hours of guided tours, online tickets, and augmented reality.

Raymond Johnston

Written by Raymond Johnston Published on 01.04.2022 15:51:00 (updated on 01.04.2022) Reading time: 2 minutes

The Czech National Museum has launched a new application for mobile devices called “National Museum in Your Pocket.” As well as letting visitors buy tickets online, it offers a comprehensive experience in which visitors are guided through exhibitions in the Historical Building of the National Museum on Prague’s Wenceslas Square.

Visitors can read or listen to interesting facts about some of the exhibits, added to the app by National Museum experts in English and Czech.

One highlight is an augmented reality feature that shows what the museum’s fin whale would have looked like when it was still swimming in the oceans. The fin whale skeleton is a symbol of the museum, having been part of its collection for almost 130 years.

Augmented reality gives visitors the opportunity to see what the whale would have looked like in its natural environment. All you have to do is point your mobile phone at the over 22-meter-long fin whale skeleton, which hangs from the museum ceiling, and the app immediately wraps it in flesh and skin, giving you the impression that you are in the middle of the ocean.

The whale model was created by the studio using simultaneous localization and mapping (SLAM). The National Museum was inspired by successful mobile applications in institutions such as the Rijksmuseum in the Netherlands, the Art Institute of Chicago, and the American Museum of Natural History and MoMa in New York.

“We promised the public that after the renovation of the National Museum we would continue with digital renovation, communicate with visitors with the help of the latest technologies, enhance the experience of visiting exhibitions, and improve orientation around our buildings. The application is an important step in fulfilling this promise,” National Museum general director Michal Lukeš said.

As well as the augmented view of the whale, the app also features guided tours of four exhibits. In total, over eight hours of spoken word in Czech and English are included. Visitors can also plan routes at home in advance, so that they take in the exhibits that best suit their interests.

The app can also guide visitors through the entire museum complex and accurately direct them to any location, whether a specific exhibition or the café, shop, cloakrooms, or toilets.

Czech technology company Futured spent 24 months developing the app. In total, there are over 1,000 Bluetooth beacons placed throughout the museum, allowing the app to detect exactly where the visitor is situated at any given time.

The National Museum plans to extend the technology to include thematic routes in the other buildings it oversees. There will also be new 3D models and augmented reality models for other exhibitions.

Visitors can download the app for free for iOS and Android. Currently, the National Museum offers everything in English and Czech, while other language versions are planned for the future.

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