Culture and the Curious


Using Augmented Reality to Provide More Relevant Content

How does a curator provide interesting or detailed knowledge when they have to contend with space and aesthetics? Peter Boyles explains how Blippar’s use of augmented reality means the virtual space has no boundaries.

Curiosity is defined as a need, thirst or desire for knowledge. As humans, we’re born with it, curiosity is innate in our being and cannot be taught. The hunger for information about the world around us is often quoted as a factor that determines our place in nature.

Einstein called curiosity the key trait of genius; when deprived of it, brain development falls behind. But this innate curiosity that drives us as children falls away as we grow; when language and culture take over we lose this intuitive navigational ability.

Now, however, the smartphone that sits in everyone’s pocket is reinvigorating it!

Human behavior is being shaped by technology; almost all tasks have been transformed. We outsource our short-term memory to Google, we communicate not by letters but by email or more often than not, Instant Messaging. Where we used to develop photographs to remember fond memories, we now Snapchat every moment of our lives. Even our language that has changed little over centuries is being reduced and in some cases ignored, replaced by the emoji.

Using Blippar

We’ve observed similarly fascinating behaviour on Blippar over our four years. Among the billions of blipps registered, the in-depth data we have access to reveals an innate human curiosity – one that importantly does not follow demographic patterns research would expect. For example, when partnering with Gardeners World magazine, we saw a conversion of over 30% of the older readership blipping. Interestingly, this is of a demographic that is increasingly ignored among digital teams in multiple industries. This is one example of many, where demographic, be it age, gender, ethnicity have proven to be of little barrier to the human thirst for knowledge – in the case of the Gardeners World audience, access to birdsong and horticultural tips.

Furthermore, once people blipp a piece of art, a film poster, or even a can of soda, their curiosity is piqued – they immediately try blipping other objects. A new ‘Generation Curious’ has emerged. With all the research on user behavior over the last 4 years, Blippar recently reengineered our image recognition engine to recognize all objects. Through optimizing our AI algorithms we’re providing users with more and more relevant content. The aim is to make the whole world recognizable, as you can imagine, quite the undertaking.

What does this mean?

Imagine how this could positively affect the cultural world, how any curious creature could access information, be it an artist’s bio, relevant artworks or even to purchase a replica. How about the family exploring one of many botanical gardens around the world? When the excited child asks what the beautiful orange flower is, the parent need only pull out their phone and through a simple scan, will be able to tell them not only the name but how best to grow the plant at home! One last example, one that is often brought up as an issue across multiple institutions is language and localization for the visitor. The National Gallery in London sees 60% of its attendance figures from non-domestic visitors. How do you provide relevant information in the required language to those many curious visitors? Visual discovery. No longer is it required to provide guided tours by language. When the smartphone allows the easy translation of all content, the ability to access that content need not a written search, rather a simple scan from your camera.

Curators across the industry tend to have a common issue – space. How does a curator provide interesting or detailed knowledge when they have to contend with not only the lack of space, but also the aesthetics of a room? With the integration of Augmented reality this apparent issue becomes void, curators now have the ability to provide as much information, in varying forms of media from text, video, animation, 3D and more! In effect, a curator now has an unlimited canvas to play with, where the ‘virtual’ space has no boundaries.

Of all the applications of visual search, no such industry exists that can quite as passionately and with true purpose, embrace such technology. There is indeed a seam between culture and curiosity that has existed well beyond the dawn of information technology.


Industry Experts article written by:

peter boyles blippar

Peter Boyles

Partnerships Manager, Blippar

Augmented Reality and the Creative Industries

Pete is currently the Partnerships Manager for Art & Culture at Blippar. Within this position Pete overseas Blippar’s early strategic movements in the Arts & Culture space. Prior to this internal move, Pete worked within the Marketing team growing the Blippar brand and community to its current 10 million users. Previously, Pete worked within the Art industry for a Modern British Gallery.

Image Credits. Top: Creative Commons; Lower: Creative Commons;

Author: Amelia Glean

Share This Post On