07 Dr. Frank Dürr, Managing Director of acameo & curator, about linking of digital & analog
For the seventh interview in the series "Increasing relevance of AR & VR through Corona for companies and educational institutions? - Potentials and hurdles for the implementation" acameo managing director Dr. Frank Dürr talks about challenges and a useful integration of XR in museums without reducing the high demand for physical visits.
Provider for extended reality formats, 3D web solutions and digital exhibitions
Points of contact with AR/VR
using the AR function of Google Maps
for more than 10 years in his function as founder & managing director of acameo
the projects have already received several awards
iin the context of his previous employment at the Museum of the Eberhard Karls University of Tübingen as research assistant and responsible for digitization processes
““Think offline and online together”, will be much more in focus in the future!”
CUUUB is a webshop system developed by acameo that offers a scalable 3D/VR solution for stationary retailers, shopping malls, museums or for the realization of digital events. CUUUB can be used as a 3D desktop or via VR and can be enhanced with various tools such as live chats, attention trackers and virtual tours. The most recent CUUUB example is a virtual tour of the exhibition "Westfälische Salzwelten" and as an online shop for the community of 700 booksellers: genialokal.
Winter shopping experiences in a virtual bookstore, Source: genialokal
1) You are an expert in digital communication and curator for XR exhibitions and have already realized many virtual solutions:
How can AR/VR be integrated into museums effectively and how do you approach such a project?
The business model of museums is to present objects and impart knowledge to visitors. AR/VR can be used in museums for many interesting solutions.
However, when we receive an inquiry for digital solutions, first of all, I always ask the customer two decisive questions:
1) What is the purpose of the project?
2) What should the technology be replacing or improving?
Specifically, AR and VR should offer an advantage over the previous way of presentation. There are two options for implementation. Either one improves the quality of the previous format in the analogue field with digital possibilities or in the digital field with analogue possibilities.
Often the best solution is to use a hybrid, where the analog physical world interacts with the digital world. Here we offer many solutions for museums, where objects of the real world will be integrated in the digital domain or where information will be replaced by digital in the analog domain.
Which problems may occur if you decide to use it on the spot in the museum?
Here, the first question that arises is the objectives of the application. For example, AR is a good tool to replace the object text. In addition, it is important that there is WLAN on site. This is often a reason why it fails in the end since there is frequently no Internet reception in the catacombs of palaces and castles. If WLAN is already available, the question of the protection of data privacy arises. This is still a problem that really exists in public institutions.
What are the possibilities of using VR on site? Have you already realized a project in this field?
For example, I used VR to create a virtual roofing for the castle of Hohentuebingen, which visitors could then view with VR glasses. This involved a survey to find out whether to build a redesign of the museum including a courtyard roofing in order to get even more exhibition space. The visitors were then able to view the roofing with VR glasses and were enthusiastic about the technology and content. So, with VR we showed the visitors the planned concept and informed them about it. Many people were then able to imagine this better and we received an approval rating of about 80 percent for the roofing.
Virtual roofing of the Castle of Hohentuebingen, Source: Museum der Universität MUT
What other difficulties have to be overcome when using AR/VR?
Once you have decided to use AR/VR, the benefits are a question of quality and usability . Especially usability is completely underestimated by most of the people. Before the technical solutions are officially used, they are usually much more complicated than in the end. To make the usability as good as possible, we therefore conduct user experience tests . At the end, we completely test the application again. When developing an AR/VR application, you should schedule 25% of the time it takes to develop for testing, so that everything is easy to understand and works well for the end users. Providing a simple and intuitive interface is really one of the big challenges in developing AR/VR solutions. This is also a major failure for many people who have great ideas but can't convert them into an AR/VR application in a simple and understandable way.
In your opinion, is the content or the usability more important?
In general, the existing, analogue content about the individual objects in museums is already very good. If you develop digital formats based on this, you have to take into account that the visitors of the virtual exhibition have little time. Therefore, it is better to reduce the complexity of the content and instead increase the usability.
Eye-tracking studies have shown that an increased number of steps is noticeable when the visitor does not enjoy the exhibition. Here, the visitor is often cognitively overwhelmed, does not want to see something and only seeks the exit. However, a high length of stay and satisfaction when leaving the museum, are some of the signs of high quality of the exhibition. These goals can be achieved by providing seating for visitors, for example, and by offering many possibilities of interaction with the objects. For the latter, the integration of AR/VR offers excellent possibilities.
How long does it take to develop a virtual tour for a building?
This can last between three weeks and three months. With our 360-degree photo cameras and laser scanners we capture 20,000 m² per day. On average we need one to two days for a building. The data preparation then takes a week before the curators can start the Guided Tour. The great thing is that this turns all in-house curators or custodians into digital curators. After a few weeks, the virtual guided tour will be ready, just like our last project for the Westfalian Exhibition of Salt Worlds, which we realized together with our partner Deutsche Telekom and T-Systems.
Impression of the 3D guided tour through the Westfalian Exhibition of Salt Worlds, Source: CUUUB
2) Concerning the Corona crisis: Have you personally noticed changes in your professional or private environment with regard to the demand of your agency and your advice regarding the use of AR/VR?
In our case the demand has increased exorbitantly. Actually, we were already on the way to apply for a rescue package for our small agency because we noticed that potential investors wanted to get withdraw and we were therefore unsure what would happen to our investments. A week later everything turned around and our order books were full. It only slowly started with pop-ups for websites and online shops, indicating the procedures during Corona, such as availability, delivery times, contact details. Then new websites and online shops were opened. This was followed by requests for CUUUBs - also on an international level like the USA, Oman, Australia, Singapore, Austria.
For us, Corona was a catalyst for the already ongoing digital transformation. In addition, we serve a huge industry in the retail sector. At the launch of CUUUB last year, it was still reported that the stationary retail sector is well positioned, even though e-commerce and the strong competition from online retailing were an issue. Thanks to Corona, all shops were suddenly closed and those that did not offer a hybrid model suddenly disappeared from the screen.
I like to walk around the city and wish for the future that there were not only restaurants in the old city centres, but also shops that people like to walk into. But developments show that e-commerce had a 40 percent increase in sales volume from 2017 to 2019, and the forecast from 2019 to 2023 predicts a further 40 percent increase. But these were the figures before Corona! The market volume will increase by 200 percent instead of only 40 percent - and that is probably not even exaggerated.
How is this enormous increase being driven forward?
In the online as well as offline retail sector, nothing has been changed in the last five to eight years. In stationary trade, the development towards e-commerce is missing and online web-shops are resting on the fact that they simply look the same: Tiled structure, 2D, images arranged in rows, products without co- and context. Consequently, there is no setting in which individual brands feel comfortable. Impressive worlds with great locations and models are used for advertising promotions, but a visit to the web shop is then rather a sobering experience. If you are lucky, the shop is quite well structured, and products are well photographed. But nothing has changed for years.
Six years ago, I recognized this problem with my team and hoped that a revolution would arise here. And since we have been working with this topic for quite some time now, we are also receiving international inquiries. And of course, we are pleased that we can support many interested parties here. But right now we are no longer talking about super healthy growth. We are a young team that is pushing the limits of our work capacity. We have been around for ten years, but we only started following the whole thing intensively at the beginning of 2020. During Corona we were also able to hire new employees. The customers want a solution right now and cannot wait until the end of 2021. The demands are legitimately high. We focus on quality in both presentation and usability.
Have you also noticed a change in consumer acceptance?
People feel like walking through digital or virtual worlds and then shopping directly. At the moment, the focus is still on responsive end devices, i.e. the application on the monitor instead of via VR devices. Everyone is reasonably well prepared for AR, but even here the resistance is there - by installing an app or using a software. We make it easy to get started with Extended Reality (XR) by simply going to the website and clicking through - this is also easy for "digital dinosaurs". Consumers have a direct and special experience. But everything else can be built modularly on this digital twin - both AR and VR. Our base is the point cloud and a flexible UX interface.
3) “In 5 years almost every household will own VR glasses like e.g nowadays mobile phones and laptops and use them for different applications like holiday simulation, shopping, meetings, for teaching/learning”.
What do you think about this statement?
If we take a closer look at the main protagonist and perhaps redefine him, then I would say: Absolutely right!
The prognosis is that an enormous hype could be triggered for the XR sector in the next four years. The technologies will be better in terms of resolution and faster, wireless, cheaper in terms of performance and, crucially, there will be more diverse and qualitatively more sophisticated offerings for using the devices. Because today's offerings, in which one lets cubes fly at one another and cuts through them with a laser sword while listening to rhythmically fitting music, often do not offer any significant added value. But there will definitely be some development. We can already see it now that things from the games sector are suddenly becoming relevant in completely different areas. You don't have to be a prophet for that. But first of all, the big question arises, what will VR glasses be in five years? I think the XR technologies will mix so much that Mixed Reality, Augmented Virtuality, Augmented Reality, Hybrid Reality and Virtual Reality as well as Haptic VR will merge more strongly.
Will XR devices be available in every household in five years, just like smartphones or laptops today? Definitely! I am absolutely convinced of that. At the moment the forecasts show a significant increase in demand for the next few years in this area and everyone is preparing for this.
One of our major partners is also showing exactly this development of XR in all areas and the mixing of the physical and digital world. The idea, according to our slogan "think offline and online together", will become much more popular and for this you need the appropriate end devices.
Final statement of Dr. Frank Dürr
Corona was a real crisis. But the lockdown allowed a new reflection. I am very excited that science was getting more attention again. Researchers were involved and asked how to position themselves socially. I was very keen to get more information from people who simply have a lot of knowledge about it. I will actually miss this time in which scientists were so strongly involved. You can already see the clear counter-trend to the "aluminium hat mentality", which I strongly reject.
I would like us to continue to approach the world with a scientific view. Not only in social or epidemiological questions, but also with regard to climate change issues. For all our love of digital technologies, perhaps we should also use them to preserve our world. We still live in a beautiful world, and it is important that we experience this beauty and make it tangible - physically and digitally.
Next week on #digitalthursday we will talk to Jonas Kunze, CTO of flyingshapes GmbH. Jonas Kunze tells us why especially designers from the automotive sector benefit from using VR and what impact Corona has on the demand for the VR CAD application of flyingshapes.
 Usability refers to the extent to which a product, system or service can be used by specific users in a specific application context to achieve specific goals effectively, efficiently and satisfactorily.  This holistic approach encompasses the entire user experience experienced when using a product. Users should not only reach their goal quickly and smoothly, but - depending on the area of application - also experience positive feelings such as fun or pleasure when using the product.