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Children help create a magical augmented reality family trail for The National Gallery

Children help create a magical augmented reality family trail for The National Gallery

  • Date31 March 2022

The National Gallery has launched its first immersive augmented reality (AR) app created with the help of over 80 children in time for the Easter holidays.

The Keeper of Paintings and the Palette of Perception app pages.jpg

The Keeper of Paintings and the Palette of Perception app pages

The Keeper of Paintings and the Palette of Perception is a free mobile-based experience that uses AR technology to encourage children to explore the Gallery and learn about its paintings.  

Young Gallery visitors are asked to help guide a fictitious Keeper of Paintings to find a lost ‘Palette of Perception’ – a magical object with special gems that gives them ‘powers’ – to engage with the paintings digitally. As they move through the Gallery responding to the app’s story, a new digital world is revealed where visitors can solve puzzles, find hidden secrets, and collect the gems connected to the paintings.

This child-led experience takes place in the National Gallery, London but also, through augmented reality, a wider imagined world of Keepers where a group of magical beings who help care for some of our world’s most precious objects. The Keeper of Paintings app is suitable for ages 7–11 and launches at the National Gallery on 11 April 2022. It is available to download for free on iOS and Android stores.

The experience was created and developed by London-based immersive experience agency Arcade and commissioned by the National Gallery and project partners from Royal Holloway, University of London, and Brunel Design School, Brunel University, London. They worked alongside a dedicated Children’s Advisory Group and school children from Folkestone, Kent, who were consulted throughout the development and have helped devise and test the app.

Lawrence Chiles, Head of Digital at the National Gallery, London, says: "It’s fantastic that we are able to launch our first dedicated app for children that creates a new perspective on the paintings at the National Gallery. It’s a rich experience and it’s been such a rewarding process to co-design it with the children that have been involved. Arcade, the children and all the partners involved have created something really magical."

The Keeper of Paintings is made as part of an innovation programme for UK creative industries to explore immersive storytelling and international collaboration. Royal Holloway’s StoryFutures team have worked to support local creative company Arcade in opening up augmented reality experiences for children, helping to create the National Gallery’s first immersive experience for families.

Royal Holloway’s innovation and story researchers help create an experience that allows families to explore the role that cultural institutions play in keeping national collections. Specialist children researchers worked for over a year to co-create the ideas for the Keeper of Painting via playing online games together and finding out what was important to children and their families in exploring the Gallery’s collections.

As the Keeper of Paintings lands on site at the National Gallery, Royal Holloway researchers will use bespoke psychological and ethnographic measures to evaluate families’ experience at the Gallery and help develop the international potential of the format for Arcade and the National Gallery.

Professor James Bennett, Director of StoryFutures at Royal Holloway, says: "The National Gallery and Arcade have taken on a massive innovation challenge to think about co‐designing with children international formats for immersive projects and The Keeper of Paintings is an amazing result that will thrill children and families. This shows what can be achieved in linking great storytelling with innovative new immersive technologies. Perhaps the most exciting thing is that the story of The Keeper of Paintings has only just begun."

Jon Meggitt, Co‐Founder of Arcade and lead developer, says: "We were absolutely thrilled to win the opportunity to develop this experience in partnership with this special and talented group, but working alongside StoryFutures, the National Gallery, the wonderful kids of the Children's Advisory Group and all the other partners has exceeded every one of our expectations. The entire Arcade team are so proud to be launching our most ambitious immersive experience to date, and we can’t wait to see where the story world of the Keepers might take us next."

Dr Vanja Garaj, Director of Research at Brunel Design School, Brunel University London, says: "Inspired by the traditional post of Keeper of the Gallery, The Keeper of Paintings offers an incredibly fun way for children and their families to enjoy the art of painting. The experience is a wonderful display of how the latest immersive tech can be used to intertwine creatively entertainment and education and it is a great pleasure to see it being launched."

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