Olga Kravchenko is co-founder and CEO of Musemio, an educational VR company whose app allows children to explore history and arts through gamified mobile VR quests.
Solutions for the visitor attraction sector, including museums, are an important part of the ISE show offering. Tell us about where the idea for Musemio came from and how it become a reality.
I became interested in virtual reality during my master’s studies in arts and cultural management. During my research I identified that museums had some difficult times understanding VR. Some didn’t understand how to use it; most of the experiences had been sponsored and were using tech for the sake of tech, rather than for art or for deeper engagement. I realised there was a space to create a VR experience that can be used as an aid to physical collections.
It then became very important for me to understand how VR is actually used by the younger generation, so we completed a study with around 3000 children with Musemio. We discovered that VR increases information retention and their interest to explore more. Based on the research we created an educational platform that allows children to explore their cultural curiosities wherever they are.
Have you noticed a difference between how children and adults interact with VR tech? Are there distinct considerations when planning VR experiences specifically for children?
Our research has shown that children treat the VR experience differently to adults – the younger generation treat it like an exciting extension of the real world. They want to be active in their learning. A child needs to be stimulated around every 15-20 seconds within a VR experience. Therefore, it was important for us to ensure there was enough information, but also flashing images that the child would be attracted to enough to click, interact and engage.
You also need to constantly seek children’s feedback when creating new levels, especially when talking about large animals and scary moments in history or introducing new game mechanics. That’s also why we have our little mascot robot flying around who helps the child feel safe within the space.
Your latest project, Culture Reimagined, brings museums and cultural institutions together to celebrate innovation. Will VR play a big role in how we consume culture in the future?
VR has generally been thought of as very expensive and not all museums have the expertise to design the experiences that would work for their collection. This is currently the biggest barrier. It’s not even about the money, it’s down to their lack of confidence that they can deliver something that will work well with their vision and mission, and something that can be used as part of their long-term strategy.
At Musemio, we are offering museums the opportunity to partner up with us for free. We generate revenues through in-app purchases, sharing the revenue with our museum partners. We work very closely with the museums to understand what the best stories are and make sure the museum is involved at every stage of the development to ensure results work well with their long-term strategy and mission.
What advantages can VR tech deliver in terms of inclusivity?
For a child, the opportunity to immerse themselves in VR is not thought of as a learning activity in itself, and this makes them more engaged and interested. They don’t feel they’re being talked at, but just playing a game. If they learn something along the way then that’s fantastic, though the goal is to stimulate their curiosity. There is a way to make every single child interested in culture by creating the opportunity to view the information differently, as I mentioned previously. That’s one of the benefits from the inclusivity from a content development perspective.
As children are the future, are we doing enough to prepare them for, or attract them into tech?
As one of the Sky Women in Technology Scholars (WiT), I am passionate about encouraging more girls and young women into STEAM careers (science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics).
I always say, ‘Instead of telling people to get into tech, encourage them to pursue their dreams and interests which might or might not include technology.’ If a child is interested in fashion, perhaps encourage them to think about related problems in the world today and what positive change could be made, possibly through tech.
At this point children may have that ‘a-ha’ moment and then it’s a job to point them towards good resources. That’s what helps children to engage with technology.
In your experience, do audiovisual professionals, such as integrators, know as much as they need to about working with VR?
For us when we produce a level, we have several elements and I’m usually the ‘glue’ for everything, as I know the concept inside out.
I think for the person in the middle trying to make the production work, it is important for them to allow themselves the time to do revisions and be very clear about the expectations and know that it’s not going to be spot-on the first time around. This is along the lines of a more agile culture that startup companies are now following. The more visual aids the integrator has – for example sketches, storyboards, a shortlist – the more clarity they would be able to provide to their team.
I think integrators need to take a lot of responsibility. It is their duty to make sure they have enough passion, vision and communicative skills to ensure other people work similarly around projects.
Download the Musemio app at https://musemio.com/download