Seiko's Augmented Reality Exhibit in Japan

Museums can a wonderful place to learn more about topics that interest you, but they can also be some of the most boring places on Earth when done incorrectly. Nothing is worse for a museum than decades old exhibits with outdated information displayed because it makes learning something new impossible.

During my trip to Switzerland a few years ago I went to two watch museums, the Omega Museum in Bienne and the Horology Museum in La-Chaux-de-Fonds. The Omega Museum was a single room with a collection of watches around the perimeter with a recorded audio guide explaining the significance of the watches before us. Amusingly enough, the museum is located above the Omega employee cafeteria so upon entering and leaving you can hear the clatter of plates and the bilingual chit-chat amongst the staff. The Horology Museum couldn't have been more different as it was a huge sprawling space, housed beneath a Swiss Mansion with room after room of antique timepieces from early water timers to modern chronometers. The amount of watches, clocks, chronographs and all things horological was overwhelming but frankly I ended up enjoying the Omega Museum far more. 

The simplicity and focused collection of the Omega Museum was it's greatest strength whereas the 70's deco and confusing layout of the Horology Museum made me think I was missing half the exhibits. A VHS loop of a clock might have seemed cutting edge back in 1980 but now is hopelessly outdated. For museums to engage with visitors, they need to keep adding new exhibits that both educate and captivate in equal measure.

Seiko has their own museum in Japan and for their latest exhibit they partnered with ZSpace, a company who make augmented reality educational screens. Using a special screen and a pair of glasses, ZSpace's technology can show a 3D image emerging in front of you and this exhibit shows  three different Grand Seiko watch calibers: Series 9S, 9F and 9R.

The visitor will be able to explode the movement and piece it back together, hopefully increasing their understanding about what goes into making a mechanical and quartz calibers. Obviously it's impossible to gauge how good the 3D effect is on a 2D video but the promotional video does approximate the experience. Having a watchmaker on site to demonstrate how a watch is made would be preferable but it would also be incredibly expensive (and potentially very boring for the watchmaker) so this screen aims to simulate that experience.

Unfortunately I don't see myself being in Japan anytime soon to try it out but if I ever find myself there, I'll be sure to let you know what I think.