How Microsoft’s HoloLens Creates a ‘Virtual Museum’ at New York Armory Show

March 2, 2017, 3:52 PM UTC

The Armory Show in New York returns for its 23rd year to present collections of some of the most important artworks from the last two centuries.

This year, Artsy, an online platform for exploring art from around the world, has teamed up with Pace Gallery’s Studio Drift, a design firm based in Amsterdam, to create an art installation using an immersive mixed reality experience with Microsoft’s HoloLens, the “world’s first self-contained holographic computer”

“It’s early days, but in a commercial context, it’s an exciting new path for the art world and the art market,” says Elena Soboleva, Artsy’s curator for special projects. “You could easily imagine a collector testing artworks out in their living room or someone exploring a museum exhibit thousands of miles away through a mixed reality experience in their home.”

Using Microsoft’s mixed reality headset, they have created a way to experience artwork all within this “virtual museum.” The project, called “Concrete Storm,” is almost hard to explain without seeing it for yourself. It attempts to merge the virtual and physical worlds in order to create something real, yet digital. You can walk around the actual concrete structures as well as the virtual ones. The digital concrete structure changes its perspective depending on where you are standing.

Elena Soboleva, Artsy's Curator of Special Projects.
Elena Soboleva, Artsy’s Curator of Special Projects.Silvia Ros
Silvia Ros

“This project with Artsy and The Armory Show marks Microsoft’s first collaboration in a commercial art context and we’re thrilled to see how mixed reality will allow HoloLens users to experience art in a new way,” says Lorraine Bardeen, general manager for Microsoft HoloLens and Windows experiences.

The headset used in this project is a fully-functional computer with Microsoft’s digital assistant Cortana installed. It can even take photos and video of what you are seeing in the headset.

Artsy chief technology officer Daniel Doubrovkine says he doesn’t think the virtual reality approach, however, will replace actual museums. The company’s mission is to make sure anyone who can connect to the Internet will be able to view art. This could be the new way to view artwork on the wall before purchasing it.

The show runs from March 2-5, and visitors can experience the work at Piers 92 & 94 in Manhattan.