Top Gear host James May gives personal museum tours using augmented reality

Tori Floyd
The Right Click
April 29, 2012

In a far cry from the awkward headsets and tape players of museums past, the Science Museum in London, England is using augmented reality to modernize the museum tour experience.

Host of Britain's Top Gear — and an all-around fan of technology — James May takes visitors on a tour of the Making of the Modern World exhibit through their iOS and Android devices.

By downloading the Science Stories app ($3 in the iTunes Store, $3.20 in Google Play Market), users can scan the AR (augmented reality) markers at each of the exhibits and get a full history of how they helped shape modern science. That explanation is delivered by way of a tiny, three-dimensional James May.

Watch as he explains the app in this teaser video:

Wired explains that the three-dimensional model of May adjusts as you turn your mobile device, letting you watch May walk around and talk from every angle.

If going to England to test out the app is out of the question, you can also download a PDF file of a marker, scan using the app and have the science museum tour experience in the comfort of your own home.

Slashgear had the chance to test out the app in the Science Museum — they found that it was tricky at times to locate the markers at the exhibits and to keep the mobile device centred correctly on it. If the camera loses sight of the marker, the model disappears (however anyone who tried out the augmented reality cups at Starbucks last Christmas knows how common a problem this is).

Despite these issues, though, it's a cool way to update the museum-going experience, and really, who doesn't want their own personal three-inch tall personal tour guide?