The Franklin Institute in Philadelphia is transforming the way museums use digital technology to engage audiences with the launch of the most comprehensive, multi-tiered virtual reality initiative of museums worldwide.
The key components of The Franklin Institute's initiative include two museum firsts: the creation of a virtual reality content library loaded with premier science content curated from all over the globe—including the exclusive debut of one of the first 360-degree videos from the bottom of the deep ocean—all housed on the museum's first-ever mobile app; and an innovative virtual reality demonstration and lab space for immersive room-scale VR visitor experiences. This will be paired with mass distribution of thousands of free Google Cardboards to visitors, as well as virtual reality experiences within such iconic exhibits as The Giant Heart, Your Brain, and Space Command, culminating in The Franklin Institute leveraging this expertise to host conferences and workshops to allow for knowledge sharing among museums educators and various audiences.
A free public launch event at The Franklin Institute is planned for the evening of Tuesday, October 25. Experts from all across the country (United Nations, MIT, Surgical Theater) will showcase the most cutting-edge VR technology to illustrate the breadth of virtual reality applications. Guests can attend a live virtual reality sporting event (Drexel University Men's Soccer), tour a space shuttle, watch a brain surgery being performed in virtual reality, and even watch as a drone takes a photogrammetric survey within the Benjamin Franklin National Memorial—and then explore inside of it through an HTC Vive. In addition, they will be among the very first to experience The Franklin Institute's all-new virtual reality platform.
The Institute embarked on its transformative digital strategy in 2015 with the hiring of Chief Digital Officer Susan Poulton and the formation of a dedicated digital innovation team. This next phase of the strategy further solidifies The Franklin Institute as a leader in advancing digital in the museum community. "I am excited by the enormous potential museums have to be a catalyst for bringing emerging technologies to the public," Poulton said. "The Institute will develop unique virtual reality and mobile content experiences and deliver them to expanded audiences, demonstrating that museums can take risks and lead the way digitally in ways they may have been reluctant to before."
The Franklin Institute is leveraging its strengths as one of the premier science centers in the world, specialized in providing access to high-quality, hands-on exhibits and rich STEM-based experiences, to launch this new digital platform. The efforts around virtual reality support the Institute's long-term digital strategy which include enhancing the core visitor experience, and developing new approaches for the creation and distribution of original and curated science content that expands its reach and mission to a national and global audience. The Franklin Institute has long been a leader in bringing the latest technologies to the public as the first place they could experience film, live television, and a telescope.
"The Franklin Institute is making a strong commitment to helping advance museums digitally. Our mission is to inspire a passion for learning about science and technology and immersive virtual reality is a way to do that like never before," said Larry Dubinski, President & CEO of The Franklin Institute.
The Institute will become the first cultural organization in Philadelphia to fully embrace virtual reality in a deep and transformative way, positioning itself and the Greater Philadelphia area as a key cultural destination for cutting-edge virtual (and soon augmented) reality innovation. The VR initiative will offer easy access to technology experiences for the broader Philadelphia public, and allow the Institute to form new mutually-beneficial relationships with local content creators and universities by providing an on-site testing environment through the "holodeck".
The Franklin Institute's comprehensive approach to virtual reality will solidify its role as a global leader among museums and non-profits by demonstrating the variety of experiences, from educational to engaging, that can be achieved with virtual reality.
Virtual Reality at The Franklin Institute
Virtual Reality Demonstration Space: "The Holodeck"
A first for museums nationwide, The Franklin Institute's own virtual reality facility equipped with HTC Vive and Oculus Rift and rotating science content for a complete, room-scale immersive experience. It will also serve as a testing zone providing developers across the region with a captive audience for their latest virtual reality software.
Virtual Reality Content Library
Housed within The Franklin Institute's first-ever mobile app and catering to offsite visitors, is a powerful virtual reality science content library featuring experiences curated by The Franklin Institute from all over the globe within the categories of Space, Planet Earth, Human Body, Technology, Physical Sciences, and History.
In-Exhibit Virtual Reality Experiences
The Franklin Institute is leveraging three of its core exhibits—The Giant Heart, Your Brain, and Space Command—to provide topical virtual reality experiences for visitors. The experiences will be tailored based on available virtual reality content, as well as future VR content developed by The Franklin Institute.
Virtual Reality Knowledge Sharing
With the goal of promoting knowledge sharing and best practices on digital trends and applications, The Franklin Institute will cultivate partnerships, develop and host related conferences, symposia, and workshops for a variety of audiences, including the general public, museum experts, educators, journalists, and professionals.
The Franklin Institute's mobile app is made possible by support from The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage.