Paul Hanrahan
Written by

Virtual reality (VR) is revolutionising the home entertainment and gaming world. But it’s also cropping up in cultural institutions around the world.

Far from being a fad or a gimmick, Virtual Reality is evolving into a tool for engagement and Scottish arts organisations are at the forefront when it comes to making use of this absorbing new technology.

Travel Further with virtual reality

Glasgow’s Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum made a statement with its installation of VR headsets in April.

As part of World Heritage Day celebrations, the gallery gave its visitors a way to visit Scotland’s World Heritage sites without leaving the building. By installing a VR headset, the gallery enabled visitors to visit World Heritage Sites across the country by using the magic of VR.

The Kelvingrove experience comes as Visit Scotland has announced its own Scotland VR mobile app. Designed for use with a smartphone and a portable headset (rather than a full VR console headset), the Scotland VR app is designed to show more people some of the incredible sites that Scotland has to offer.

By launching the Scotland VR mobile app users can immerse themselves in 26 different Scottish cultural experiences such as walking through the prehistoric village of Skara Brae in Orkney, getting up close to the Northern Lights or soaring like a bird over Edinburgh Castle, without leaving the sofa.

According to Visit Scotland, the app was created to “incite emotion during those ‘I want to get away’ moments in life” and encourage more visitors to Scotland.

Focus on the Details

VR is also enabling organisations to share greater levels of detail than ever before with their audiences.

V&A Dundee, which opens next year, is using VR to explore design potential in the architecture itself. Designers have used 3D to create the concept for the build and the design team can now access a virtual reality walkthrough and 3D printed models of the museum.

The technology has enabled the architects to become more artistic in their design process as they create a state of the art venue. Long before the museum’s actual launch, the use of the VR technology has attracted audience and media attention too.

Meanwhile, a team from the Centre for Digital Documentation and Visualisation (CDDV), and a partnership between Historic Environment Scotland and Glasgow School of Art have created a virtual reconstruction of Bar Hill, a prominent encampment that once stood on the Antonine Wall in the 1st Century AD.

It’s designed to be viewed by visitors to the actual site, which is near modern day Kilsyth, but could also be released as a smartphone app. The recreation has been made as accurate as possible, while paving the way for an augmented reality angle that could allow audiences to interact with the models, for example by viewing the fort around you as in VR, or talking to a Roman soldier in the site.

The heightened level of detail certainly makes for an exciting new way to keep audiences engaged and interested in learning more.

A Growing Reality

Recent research shows that 60% of searches for destination information come from mobile devices. What’s more, virtual reality is experiencing growth worldwide with forecast numbers of VR users between now and 2018 set to grow by 400% to 170 million.

A recent report by Greenlight VR revealed that travel and adventure content is the most in-demand. In fact, 74% of consumers cited that they are on the hunt for travel content, followed by movies and live-events.

Obviously using this growing technology does not come cheap, but with audience interest growing, VR and augmented reality (AR) are certainly worth keeping an eye on when it comes to new ways to capture attention and engage new audiences.

Main image credit: Clube Maker Realidade Virtual by Olabi_Makerspace (CC BY-SA 2.0)