Embodied interaction on a boat. Designing immersive museum and heritage playful experiences

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstract


What happens when a museum invites non-visitors to co-create and play immersive games for and about museum objects? This paper explores merging embodied interaction, machine learning and extended reality to develop a playful, open and immersive museum experience…on a boat.

Landing Craft Tank LCT 7074 is the last surviving Landing Craft Tank (LCT) from D-Day, it played a vital role in transporting men and supplies across the English Channel. After it was retired, LCT 7074 was turned into a 1970s floating nightclub and eventually fell into disrepair and sank. Can this curious object biography be combined with immersive technology to reach out to and engage with under-represented audiences disconnected with 20th Century History?

Confronted by declining public investment, changing visitor expectations and the intertwined imperatives of accountability and social responsibility (Davis, 2013), museums are under increasing pressure to be participatory, inclusive and develop new ways to attract a more diverse audience and enhance engagement with minimal resources (Black, 2020). Within this social, political and cultural context, UK museums are already increasingly exploiting the rapidly developing immersive technology ecosystem with the hope that immersive experiences and more playful game-based activities will lead to new audiences, deeper engagement and more meaningful participation. As an important part of contemporary and popular culture, games seem to enable museums to reach out to new audiences, particularly those in the 18-35 age bracket.

New immersive interfaces are progressively emphasising embodiment, providing opportunities to mobilise museum visitors, through kinesthetic, somatic and multimodal design. Emerging technologies that encourage kinesthetic embodiment are also accompanied by shifts in critical theory emphasising performance and the materiality of the digital (Kenderdine, 2016) and in combination with computer vision applications could potentially enrich museum experiences. In this paper, we explore how AI-enhanced immersive gameplay experiences can be housed within a historical object and whether or not it can draw in audiences who currently do not visit museums. We discuss how to establish meaningful links between historical objects and embodied interaction, and how to co-design experiences and engagement by and for new audiences using immersive and innovative technologies. By embracing play as a core value, we are radically experimenting with immersive storytelling and framing within military history collections to find ways to reimagine visitor experience and engagement.

Through a case study approach, we describe a 12-month R&D collaboration between the D-Day Story Museum and the University of Portsmouth's Centre for Immersive and Extended Reality in 2022. Devised as part of the Enabling Extended Reality Enterprise (eXRe) project Funded by the UK Community Renewal Fund and aimed to pilot extended reality (XR) technologies within the cultural, heritage, and tourism economies through R&D projects. The paper discusses the development of the immersive experience prototype onboard the only surviving D-Day Landing Craft, targeting an audience of 18-35-year olds who do not currently visit the museum. Finally, we draw the lessons of this experience and the possible implications of playful immersive experiences for museum collections using sound and embodied interaction as the driver for audience engagement.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages1
Publication statusPublished - 10 Sept 2023
EventDRHA 2023: Digital Research in the Humanities and Arts: Performing Cultural Heritage in the Digital Present Conference - University of Turin, Turin, Italy
Duration: 10 Sept 202313 Sept 2023


ConferenceDRHA 2023: Digital Research in the Humanities and Arts: Performing Cultural Heritage in the Digital Present Conference
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