Building Audiences Part I: An Experiment in DIY Augmented Reality

An average person uses their smartphone for 2 hours and 15 mins every day. [1] That’s more than two hours of time staring at your phone screen. So why not capitalize on audiences’ existing attachment to their phones, to better engage them with an arts organization?

Many museums are already using AR to better document and showcase their collections. Performing art organizations, however, have had less innovation in this area. Using blank slate areas like lobbies or hallways to promote upcoming shows is a simple process that wouldn't have a significant impact on a tight budget, as evidenced by this experiment.

Purpose: By creating an augmented reality app, Future Tenant will be able to increase audience engagement at their fundraiser, leading to more repeat visits and better patron relationships.

Hypothesis:  This experiment will show whether or not AR applications are effective tools for small non-profit organizations to deepen the audience’s experience, no matter their budget size. 

An experiment was conducted where an augmented reality scavenger hunt was incorporated in the events of a fundraiser, to measure how an immersive new technological experience, can increase an audience’s perception and relationship of the event as well as the organization.


Who: Future Tenant Winter Fundraiser; Mission: “Future Tenant provides a laboratory setting for artists, arts managers and audiences to explore the limits of the creative expression, presentation and interpretation of various art forms.” 
What: Augmented reality scavenger hunt         
Location: Future Tenant is a small gallery space in Downtown Pittsburgh located at 819 Penn Ave.        
When: December 1st, 2017, 8:00 pm – 11:00 pm     
Theme: Video Games                                                                 
Goals: Have more than 50% of guests try out the scavenger hunt                                         
Data: The total number of people who played the game was 39 out of 60 people who attended the event           

Background: The event was a Winter Fundraiser for Future Tenant, which had the theme of a Video Game parlor, with five gaming stations with games such as Super Mario Kart and Dance Mania. Future Tenant had a staff of 7 and managed to raise $200 net during the event. 

Procedure and Timeline:

October 20th: Talk to the Executive Director at Future Tenant about the organization, learn about the theme and logistics of the event, and determine what purpose it will serve. This information will help to create the structure of the Augmented Reality(AR) experience.

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October 27th: Brainstorm ideas for the AR experience that work with the theme and purpose of the event. This includes thinking through how the app can be incentivized and what logistical considerations need to be taken into account. Most importantly, find a way to make the app interesting for the targeted audience.

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November 5th: Collaborate with the programmer to know how the game will be designed. Then work out the programmer’s requirements and budget for the project, including the programmer’s fees. It’s also necessary to set a timeline, leaving room to test the game. [2]

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November 12th: Build out the Scavenger hunt.

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November 22nd: Consider any and every barrier that the audience may have in engaging with the organization through this AR experience.


·       The experience cannot be too long, people will lose interest

·       It should not be so challenging that people are left spending hours figuring out encrypted clues

·       They should have access to the URL to download the app as well as clear instructions


At this point, there is a clear vision and goal built out for this experiment. The next steps will involve the event itself and the conclusions drawn from this process. Tune in next week to see how it all turns out!



1 Lovejoy, Ben, and Ben Lovejoy @benlovejoy Ben Lovejoy Is a British Technology Writer and EU Editor for 9to5Mac. He’s Known for His Op-eds and Diary Pieces, Exploring His Experience of Apple Products over Time, for a More Rounded Review. He Also Writes Fiction, with Two Technothriller Novels Published to Date, and an SF Novella Series Coming in March 2017. "The average smartphone user spends 2h 15m a day using apps – how about you? [Poll]." 9to5Mac. May 05, 2017. Accessed December 02, 2017.

2 Ganguly, Annesha. "Using Augmented Reality is Really Simple." AMT Lab @ CMU. November 15, 2017. Accessed December 02, 2017.