The Borrowers AR

The Borrowers augmented reality (AR) interactive installation was developed for the Nuffin’ Like a Puffin exhibition at The National Centre for Children’s Books (2010). The installation was situated in a dedicated gallery space that also included a number of original framed illustrations, edited manuscripts and letters related to Mary Norton’s book.

The purpose of the AR installation was to create a sense of immersion for visitors, akin to making a visit to the Borrowers’ home and catching the Clocks family, small people living under the floorboards and behind the walls of an ordinary house, going about their daily business. Video projected characters, Pod and Arrietty, would pop out above frames, run out from behind the grandfather clock, hide behind pieces of paper and carry pencils.

The projections were triggered by the movement of visitors in the room via a face-tracking camera, embedded in the grandfather clock keyhole. The system was able to track people in the room and infer how crowded the room was, whether they were big or small based on their height, and how far people stood from the clock. This enabled the system to generate different projection patterns depending on the nature of visitor presence in the room. No buttons or other mechanisms for controlling the projection were available to visitors and museum facilitators. The installation ran for 12 months.   

The project was part of a Collaborative Innovation Partnership (CIP) between Newcastle University and Seven Stories, funded by One NorthEast (now defunct). It was further supported by Culture Lab.

Image credits: bottom middle and right – Areti Galani // top and bottom left – Rachel Clarke.

Research publication: Galani, A., Clarke, R. (2019) ‘Configuring slow technology through social and embodied interaction: making time for reflection in augmenter reality museum experiences with young visitors‘. In: Lewi, H. et al. (eds) International Handbook in New Digital Practices in Galleries, Libraries, Archives, Museums and Heritage Sites. Routledge. [PRE-PRINT VERSION OPEN ACCESS]

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