A platform for social, cultural, virtual tours.

This year has been a year hasn’t it? The pandemic has created many challenges but also opened up a few opportunities for us as a studio.  As a result, we’re lucky to have been really busy over the last 7 months researching and developing ‘Curatours’. A new platform that takes an existing immersive storytelling idea and builds upon it and all the technology we’ve built to deliver a new way for museums and galleries to share their work.

Cooperative Innovations was officially four years old just a few weeks ago. During those four years, our work has always been about bringing people together virtually. We’ve been thinking a lot about immersive storytelling. Watching the growth of the virtual reality market and thinking about how this in combination with other (currently) more widely adopted technologies are so brilliant at serving social experiences. Earlier this year when everything that used to be ‘in person’ had to change, we noticed that it triggered a lot more people to really understand the strength of digital spaces. 

While everything seemed to be falling apart we realised we were in this brilliant position to actually activate a lot of the knowledge and understanding that we’ve accumulated and maybe even help. We won an Innovate UK grant in June and ever since we’ve been working away on a demo for Curatours and we’re now at the stage where we want to start talking publicly about it. 

There’s nothing quite the same as going to a museum, it’s something that many of us and our friends/families (used to) do a lot! There’s something special in knowing a historically important event occurred at a location, or that an artist worked on a piece that is right in front of you within your grasp. This is something that can’t be replaced but it can be supplemented and extended. At the moment, there are a good number of 360 tours, brilliant websites and wonderful interactive digital experiences that you can go on. These experiences don’t offer a feeling of presence and they are usually a solitary experience and most importantly there are no staff there to answer your questions.

The lobby of Curatours

Audiences have lots to consider, they have a lot of choice for entertainment in the modern world, they’re constantly bombarded by a never-ending stream of entertainment, news and information, for lots of people they’re not seeing themselves or their own stories being represented in museums, the climate crisis means paying to go halfway across the world to see a piece of art is now not only a financial consideration, but it’s also an environmental consideration. The whole point of Curatours is to help museums and galleries join up with potential visitors. For institutions it creates a new place to share their collection, regardless of space or conservation worries, it’s a place where physics is something that can be addressed, it’s an incredibly immersive and creative space, and on top of that, it offers potential new revenue stream and a global audience.

Curatours offers visitors the chance to get REALLY close and examine objects in detail. You can do the things that you’re not actually allowed to do like touch the artefacts. Just last week I spent about half an hour in our new “demo museum” with my 11-year-old daughter. It was pure magic. We haven’t been to a museum all year, and as much as she complains about how many galleries and museums I “drag them round” we soon fell into familiar habits … she pointing out all the nudity me trying very hard to drag any learning or cultural growth out of her – her running ahead and us eventually playing hide and seek amongst the statues.

The first two organisations we’re working with are The National Trust Scotland and Anne Frank House. For National Trust Scotland we’re looking at The Hill House, a building designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh. A lot of data exists for the building as a result of the conservation work that’s happening in partnership with Historic Environment Scotland (HES). Anne Frank House already has a VR Tour that was created by Forcefield Entertainment and we’re excited to move the work they’ve done on to our platform and to add a social and tour guided element to that project. The story of Anne Frank is so well supported by this technology as it gives you a really important sense of scale and place.

The intention of the product is for it to be as accessible as physically possible. So we’re making it for VR headsets but also making it for smart devices and for desktops viewing the experience from a 2D device you’ll get a viewport into a 3d world.

We are at the beginning of our journey with this project, in order to shape the future we’re doing lots of listening and collaborating. We are looking for partners and collaborators to use our platform and more importantly, to tell us what they think and where they see the future heading. I’m also looking for digital content creators who are also already working with the museum and gallery sector, to see if you’re open to finding a new revenue stream for your content. So, bringing it onto our platform, unlocking the technical abilities that we have created new revenue for the content that you’ve already made.

I’m so excited about the possibilities of this project, we will have the product in public beta early next year and before then I’d love to hear from you if you’re interested in becoming a partner.