Modern Solutions to Historic Problems
Digital Label System - Getty Museum
In January 2017, the Getty Museum began a major overhaul of the Getty Villa, which contains an extensive collection of coins, gems, and rings from around 3000 B.C. to around 600 A.D. As part of that overhaul they commissioned Guidekick to develop a digital kiosk which would take advantage of their state-of-the-art imaging laboratories to allow people to view all of these small objects in greater detail than you could ever see when viewed in a regular display case. To this end, The Getty wanted to deploy a 12.9" iPad Pro next to each physical case which would allow visitors to naturally zoom into each item and see details normally invisible to the naked eye.
Guidekick was already committed to a project with Indianapolis Airport and so they asked us if we would take on the task of developing the app with them handling design and QA. Naturally, we could not turn down the opportunity to work with The Getty. We set about creating a prototype in Unity for the "deep zoom" functionality which would allow each item within a case to be represented by multiple high-resolution images (up to 12k x 12k) on a standard iPad. Once the prototype was polished and approved, we started developing a system for processing and handling all of the assets necessary for each case. Unity's ability to extend the editor with your own custom tools and panels made this difficult task much more manageable. By integrating an image processing plugin and creating my own custom editors, we were able to produce a tool which took extremely high-resolution images, applied baked soft shadow effects, broke them into tiles, created metadata for the tile pieces, and then bundled everything up into an asset bundle to deliver to the museum.
In order to be displayed in the Getty, everything in the project had to meet rigorous standards and attention to detail was essential. To this end, we went through numerous revisions to ensure that the text, fonts, touchscreen controls, gestures, icons, and layouts were all perfect. Finally, when the ten display cases were complete, we were asked to document the tools, record a series of video tutorials and pass off the Unity project to The Getty so that they could continue creating more case layouts themselves.
Early analytics from the project showed that the average user who engaged with the app viewed 50% of the items within a display case, demonstrating a very high engagement rate.
In January 2020, we again worked with the Getty to produce five new cases for their Mesopotamia exhibit, a collaboration with the Louvre, which is due to open in April, 2020.