Smithsonian works with Verizon to launch AR museums

COVID-19 restrictions got you down? Here's how to visit museums via augmented reality.

Corinne Reichert Senior Writer
Corinne Reichert (she/her) grew up in Sydney, Australia and moved to California in 2019. She holds degrees in law and communications, and currently oversees the CNET breaking news desk for the West Coast. Corinne covers everything from phones, social media and security to movies, politics, 5G and pop culture. In her spare time, she watches soccer games, F1 races and Disney movies.
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Verizon and the Smithsonian are working on AR museum content.

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As COVID-19 restrictions continue, Verizon is putting Smithsonian museums online for everyone to experience. The Smithsonian Open Access Initiative is aimed at providing students, teachers and parents with educational content, through a partnership with Verizon's 5G Labs that'll tap augmented reality and narrated audio.

"Whether kids have returned to the classroom or are remote learning, we need to think of new ways technology can help them engage with educational content," said Sanyogita Shamsunder, Verizon's vice president of technology development and 5G Labs. "Activating Smithsonian Open Access is a great step forward toward immersive, interactive and remote experiences."

So far, there are exhibits about US history, air and space, inventions, arts and architecture, and extinct animals.

Here's how to view them all on your smartphone:

  1. Open a QR reader app on your phone.
  2. Point the reader app at one of the QR codes on Verizon's virtual museum site.
  3. Click "open link."
  4. The exhibit and description will appear in 3D.
  5. You can click "see it in your space" in the top right corner of your screen to turn on your camera.
  6. Hit "allow" to let the app use your camera and microphone.
  7. Click the volume button on the screen to hear the audio description of the exhibit.
  8. You can also click "learn more" in the bottom right corner of your screen to see further images and information on the exhibit.

Verizon is also asking "creators and technology entrepreneurs" to help build more ways to learn and to interact with museums online. Later this year, $10,000 commissions will be awarded to six teams to work on projects.