Discover Your Island

Transforming museum visits through augmented reality

Elliff, Hemmer, & Harvey


A visit to the Art Museum of South Texas (AMST) has transformed into an interactive, immersive experience, thanks to an app pioneered by Dr. David Squires. The app is free to the public and available in the App Store. When museum visitors launch the app and point their devices at art pieces, the exhibits come alive with interactive content allowing them to connect with the pieces and authors.

The app uses augmented reality (AR), which can be defined as interactive, programmable content, including multimedia like videos, audio clips, virtual tours, and 3D graphics that are overlaid or superimposed onto digital or real-life content. The IDET ARTS (Instructional Design & Educational Technology Augmented Reality Transmedia Storytelling) platform provides analytic data, open-ended user feedback, and use case information on the practical applications of Augmented Reality and the potential impacts AR may have on working memory, learner engagement, and cognition in STEAM-enriched environments.

"The IDET ARTS app is an extension of many years of personal research and development work with AR and the potential impact digital overlay technology may have on working memory performance and cognition in relation to training and learning environments," said Squires. "The benefits of AR technology are that it can increase interest and participation for museum visitors of all ages, said Squires. It aligns resources and technology to help increase excitement and interpretation of art pieces."

IDET ARTS is the first app focused on art in the Coastal Bend. So far, more than 300 active users have used IDET ARTS to engage with two exhibits: Digital Darkroom and Los Tejanos.

The Instructional Design and Educational Technology program coordinator, Dr. Susan Elwood, along with Dr. Squires, plan to involve Islander graduate students in providing STEAM enriched content and activities that will be supported by the IDET ARTS app.

"IDET ARTS has an overall goal of expanding to create a citywide platform that will be deployed to serve in science, technology, engineering, art and math (STEAM) development for greater public engagement, and deeper learning in informal STEAM learning," said Elwood

Dr. David Squires, Department of Curriculum, Instruction and Learning Sciences / Instructional Design and Educational Technology
Dr. Susan Elwood, Department of Curriculum, Instruction and Learning Sciences / Instructional Design and Educational Technology

Total Award
$2,208, TAMUCC Office of Research, Commercialization, and Outreach

Project Period
In progress

Research Method
Mixed methods (concurrent triangulation design). Participants opt in to the research study via the app. For users that opt in, embedded analytic tracking within the IDET ARTS app tracks and reports user behavior, time-on-task, and what specific AR triggered exhibits they interact with while the app is running on an iOS-enabled device. A qualitative questionnaire is accessible within the app. Selected participants take part in follow-up interviews with the researcher.

The purpose of this study is to measure if an Augmented Reality application can provide a uniquely beneficial learning context due to its mobility and ability to ‘unlock’ content vs. traditional eLearning methods. Augmented Reality is a novel technology that can bring learning content to life and we will be seeking to investigate several research questions. The main research question we will be seeking to elucidate: How do participants think or feel about Augmented Reality’s use in learning environments, and if AR is an effective medium for teaching and learning? How do participants in the sample explain Augmented Reality’s impact on engagement, associative information processing, and working memory? Does the quantitative application analytic data tracking and qualitative questionnaire and interview data converge to support a conclusion that Augmented Reality can positively impact user engagement? Does Augmented Reality have an impact on effective utilization of working memory?