Royal Ontario Museum Launches Scopify, a Mobile App That Makes You the Curator

Here’s something you can talk about around the water cooler today. In Ancient Egypt, they killed cats by breaking their necks and mummified them to worship their gods.

I found this horrifying fact out while using a new app called ScopifyROM at the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM).

ScopifyROM is an app that takes the museum experience at the ROM to a whole new level. The app transforms any museum goer into a digital curator by providing digital tools, or “scopes” that let you dig deeper into specific exhibits. If you have ever wondered what was inside a tomb, or what a dodo bird may have looked like if it were living today, this app is for you. 

The app features thirteen custom-made scopes all geared towards discovery. Each of the scopes are designed to focus the attention on the real museum object and let users do something with it. The scopes allow users to x-ray items to see what’s inside, skin skeletons to visualize what they once looked like, decode symbols and languages on ancient objects and even use a periscope which takes your view high up in the air to view objects from a unique perspective (the last one is great for dinosaurs).

“What we wanted to do here is emphasize discovery,” Dan Rahimi, Vice President of Gallery Development at the Royal Ontario Museum, told Techvibes. “What visitors are doing is looking at objects in a new way. We are adding a new dimension to let them scopify or see something else about the object and then they almost draw their own conclusions. We help them by providing the tools but then they do it and they make the discovery and that is what is revolutionary—not the technology it’s the application of it.”

There are currently 15 supported exhibits spread out around the ROM. All of these exhibits are marked with QR codes, which are necessary to start the experience. Scanning the QR code brings up the object in the app along with its available scopes. Each object has about two to three different scopes. After a user has scanned five of the exhibits they will unlock five games which are also available in the app—perfect for when the kids start to get too antsy.

I’m usually not a huge fan of QR-based apps. Mostly because I’ve been burned too many times by making the effort to scan a code only to be brought to a poorly optimized web page or just a video. But having had a chance to experience the ScopifyROM app at the museum yesterday, I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised.

The interactive experiences within the ScopifyROM app are engaging, well executed, and most importantly compliment rather than take away from the real life exhibit. It was clear that making sure that the museum experience is enhanced rather than disrupted was key for the ROM.

 “I believe something magical happens in the museum like theatre. When you go and stand in front of a case the glass should disappear so anything we put on the glass is a barrier and we want to minimize it. We have positioned the codes carefully,” explained Rahimi.

In talking with David Oppenheim, a producer from Kensington Communications the company who created the app, it seems that their team is already looking at ways to remove the QR code and use less obtrusive technologies like NFC or Beacons.

This isn’t the first time the ROM has utilized mobile technology to bring their exhibits to life. Back in 2012, ROM worked with Meld Media to launch an augmented reality app for their Ultimate Dinosaurs exhibit.

The ScopifyROM app is currently available for iOS. Kensington Communications have confirmed that the Android version should be expected later this week. If you are planning a trip to the ROM you can download the app from the ROM’s website.