Monday October 17, 2016
Tags for: Cleveland Museum of Art Continues to Pioneer Innovation in Museum Technology
  • Press Release

Cleveland Museum of Art Continues to Pioneer Innovation in Museum Technology

Visitors at ArtLens Gallery

Reimagined Studio Play and ArtLens 2.0 app connect visitors to collections in groundbreaking ways

CLEVELAND, OH — The Cleveland Museum of Art has set a new benchmark in the integration of art and technology. Using cutting-edge technology to create unparalleled digital experiences, the Cleveland Museum of Art has again revolutionized the possibilities for museum engagement. 

The success of the updated Studio Play and the museum’s ArtLens 2.0 app emanates from a collaborative partnership using a wide breadth of expertise across museum departments; curatorial, education and interpretation, architecture and design, information management and technology services (IMTS), and collections management departments all contributed to the project. The development process was guided by Jane Alexander, the CMA’s chief information officer. 

Studio Play

Studio Play is a space where movement, play and creativity are encouraged and inspired. Developed with the entire family in mind, the interactives in Studio Play are designed to build a foundation of visual literacy that can be used throughout the museum. From a human magnifying glass to the Create Studio where visitors can make their own art, Studio Play is fun. The interactives, however, also serve to develop skills that lead to a greater appreciation and understanding of the museum’s collection.

“Studio Play uses innovative approaches to enrich the experience of families, helping them to hone three important skills: observation, creativity and play,” said William M. Griswold, museum director. “The Studio Play team went back to the essential questions of art and learning. What are ways to help families connect to the collection? How do people learn? How do you build authentic connections to art? ”

The most notable aspect of Studio Play is that it is barrier free; the transition between observation and interaction is seamless and effortless. The touch-screen interfaces that may limit access for nonreaders or frustrate nontech-savvy visitors are gone. Instead, the technology is exquisitely responsive to user movement and is accessible for all.   

“Ironically the sophistication of the technology makes it seem deceptively simple,” says Jane Alexander.  “When you are working with such amazing subject matter the goal is to get out of the way and let the artwork shine.” The result is immersive experiences that foster a closer connection to the art.

The museum partnered with the award-winning consultants Design I/O, a creative studio located in Cambridge, Massachusetts. With more than 15 years of experience specializing in the design and development of one-of-a-kind, immersive, interactive installations, Design I/O is known for their subtle, elegant incorporation of learning and play. “At Design I/O we love to develop experimental, cutting-edge techniques to allow your body to interact with an installation in a way that feels intuitive to the content. For Studio Play it felt like a perfect opportunity to introduce children to both the artworks and the techniques behind the artworks in a playful way that feels natural and true to the form,” says Theo Watson, Partner, Design I/O.

New Studio Play features include:

Create Studio 

Create Studio is a place for visitors to unleash their inner artist. Built on the museum’s 100 years of experience in studio-based programming, Create Studio offers four different ways to make artwork in a space resembling an artist’s studio. The installations use a combination of time-of-flight depth cameras, custom C++ software and real-time graphics to create interactive experiences that allow visitors to play with traditional artistic techniques in a playful, gesture-based way. Visitors may save original works by sharing them on the museum’s Tumblr site or posting on social media #StudioPlay.

  • Portrait Maker: This interactive uses custom software and computer vision to allow visitors to craft their likeness in the style of the portraits that line the walls of the museum. Choose from oil, charcoal or watercolor to create a self-portrait that is realistic or abstract.
  • Pottery Wheel: A spinning block of clay is molded into shape as visitors mimic a potter’s movements at a wheel. Using Kinect 3D depth-tracking cameras, this interactive magically re-creates the experience of a potter at the wheel. The intensity of the participants’ gestures changes the width of their vessels. 
  • Collage Maker: With a snip and a clip, visitors are able to create collages using a wide variety of images from the museum collection. Pair, enlarge, rotate and duplicate details from a favorite modern painting with scenery from masterworks by medieval artists to create something new and unique.  
  • Paint Play: Using motion-tracking technology, a “painting” is created through the visitor’s arm and hand movements on a 65-inch, 4K digital canvas. Just like using an actual brush and paint, broad gestures result in a wider paint splatter while smaller gestures create areas of more concentrated color. 

Reveal and Zoom 
Reveal and Zoom allows visitors to investigate the collection in two different ways. Reveal encourages visitors to consider composition first before details come into focus, while Zoom invites visitors to explore details closely. Reveal and Zoom alternate on a 4K interactive video wall that uses the body as a tool to explore masterworks from the museum’s collection using innovative motion-tracking technology.

  • Reveal: A larger-than-life-size image is at first blurry, but visitors’ movements, individually or in groups, bring the artwork into sharp focus. Sweeping gestures bring about subtle changes to the image, while smaller, focused movement extracts finer details. The process continues until the object is entirely “revealed.” 
  • Zoom: The visitor’s body acts as a magnifying glass. Using body movement, participants can examine every detail of a work of art, encouraging visitor-led investigation.

Line and Shape 
Long a favorite of visitors to Gallery One, this game has been enhanced and enlarged in this new iteration of Studio Play. Visitors draw lines and shapes on a large touch screen, and these simple forms are rapidly matched to one of over 7,000 works in the museum’s collection. Line and Shape highlights discovery, focusing on details of different works in the CMA’s extensive holdings.

Matching Game 
Matching emphasizes the connection between visual and verbal literacy. Working against a ticking clock, visitors are asked to find artworks containing an everyday item, like a chair, as quickly as possible. In order to accommodate varied skill levels and ages, there are multiple levels of difficulty for this activity.

Memory Game 
Modeled after the time-honored memorization game, this interactive invites visitors to “flip over” different cards, two at a time, in order to make a match, challenging visitors to hone their visual memory skills. When two details from the same work of art are successfully matched, the entire image is revealed. Presented as a companion for the Matching Game, the Memory Game is a quick, easy and enjoyable way to introduce visitors to some of the immense variety of artwork in the museum. 

ArtLens 2.0

ArtLens 2.0, the CMA’s app, combines the most current technology and innovative design with a wealth of interpretive content provided by the museum’s curatorial and interpretation teams. What is distinctive about the ArtLens app is that every artwork on display in the museum is included in the app. Moreover, information in the app is updated in real time, ensuring that users always have access to the most accurate information available. By including all of the art on display ArtLens has democratized the museum visit by empowering visitors to create their own experiences with the artworks on view. This encourages greater accessibility and inevitably leads to a stronger connection between the visitor and the collection. 

“The Cleveland Museum of Art has focused on enhancing the visitor experience through the development of cutting-edge technologies and on-site interpretive materials,” said William M. Griswold, museum director. “This latest development of ArtLens 2.0 helps our museum remain a global leader in delivering interpretive content and we will continue to generate new content, further enriching the visitor’s experience.” 

The CMA collaborated with Local Projects on ArtLens 2.0. Developers of the museum’s world-renowned Gallery One, Local Projects is the firm that takes the app to the next and highest possible level of technical fidelity, ensuring a rapid initial download, optimizing the interactive, real-time wayfinding maps and streamlining the design. “Currently, there are no other mobile apps for museums that provide such comprehensive tools for visitors to explore the collection,” said Jake Barton, Local Projects principal and founder. “In addition to now having a super-fast initial download, ArtLens features augmented reality to provide artwork-specific content, and empowers visitors to curate their own tours. ArtLens is a full application and encourages visitors to take the collection into their own hands.”

“ArtLens 2.0 is the backbone of the CMA’s digital strategy at the museum,” said Jane Alexander, CMA’s chief information officer. “It is focused on the visitor experience. It is adaptable to the different browsing styles of our visitors and effortlessly provides the information our visitors need. The original ArtLens was an amazing and award-winning app. We have made it even better.”

ArtLens 2.0 is fast and user friendly. The download time for the app has been reduced to 30 seconds.  Improved optimizations have reduced the size of the app, making ArtLens 2.0 comparable in size to popular social media apps like Snapchat. The redesigned interface is clean and intuitive and the wayfinding is responsive and comprehensive. The maps have been expanded and improved to contain every gallery in the museum including special exhibitions and outdoor spaces. Each gallery has a description, image and content on every single artwork on view. Improvements to the maps and a “find me” function make navigating the different galleries much easier for visitors. ArtLens 2.0 now uses Bluetooth to connect to the museum’s Gallery One making synchronization seamless. Also, the app may be used on site or from anywhere in the world. 

“ArtLens 2.0 includes a reconceived map with galleries now grouped and color-coded by theme and a new layer of content at the gallery level that offers an overview for each space,” said Lori Wienke, associate director of interpretation for the Cleveland Museum of Art. “These enhancements will allow visitors to more easily navigate the museum and to locate artworks that meet their particular interests, providing a more satisfying experience for both on-site and virtual visitors.”

New ArtLens 2.0 features include:

Galleries: The most significant changes to the app are in the “Galleries” feature with updates to the maps, content, wayfinding and nearby objects.

  • Maps: Galleries are color-coded and grouped thematically to facilitate easier navigation. Tap any gallery number to see what type of art is on display in that location or find gallery descriptions by tapping the gallery name. 
  • Wayfinding: Create a path to explore artworks. Push the Find Me button at any time to find the exact location in the museum.
  • Content: All artworks on display are identified and findable in ArtLens 2.0 with additional content available for selected artworks. New content is generated on an ongoing basis.
  • Nearby Artworks: Nearby artworks that might be of interest are suggested based on the artwork selected.

Scanning: Using innovative image-recognition software, ArtLens 2.0 seamlessly recognizes a selection of two-dimensional artworks and provides additional curatorial and interpretive content. Items can be scanned from 50 feet away, allowing visitors to review fast facts and gather information before approaching the art.

You: To “favorite” artworks, tap the heart icon on the Collection Wall in Gallery One or on individual artworks in the app. All favorites are saved under “You.” Favorites can be used to create personalized tours, find specific artworks in the museum or share on social media.

Tours: Select from both museum-curated and visitor-created tours. The mapping feature locates specific artworks and navigates the entire tour. Choose to create a personalized tour that may be added to “visitor-created tours” and shared with the world.

Search: Search by artist’s name or by keyword to discover corresponding works on view in the museum. Find the exact location of an artwork identified on a map with a quick tap.

Bluetooth: ArtLens now uses Bluetooth to connect to the Collection Wall, making synchronization seamless.

Top Ten: Explore the museum’s dynamic list of visitor favorites, as well as curators’ top picks of must-see artworks.

Museum: Get a daily snapshot of exhibitions and events occurring at the museum as well as the location of restrooms, restaurants and exits. 

ArtLens 2.0 is supported by Swagelok. “Supporting and giving back in the communities where we live and work comes naturally to Swagelok associates,” says Arthur F. Anton, president and chief executive officer of Swagelok, a $2-billion manufacturer of high-performance fluid system solutions employing over 4,300 people around the world. “Our company invests heavily in innovation that serves customers,” adds Anton. “We see a great parallel between our customer focus core value and what the museum wants to accomplish with the ArtLens app.”

ArtLens 2.0 is available for free download to iPads or iPhones running iOS9 or higher, or an Android device (4.4+), from the iTunes App Store or Google Play.  

Centennial Celebration

One hundred years ago the Cleveland Museum of Art opened its doors to the public. In 2016 the museum invites all audiences to celebrate its 100th anniversary, honoring the past and looking ahead to the future. Program highlights include special centennial exhibitions representing the creative genius of four continents, spanning ancient to contemporary art, as well as the presentation of extraordinary individual works of art on loan from top-tier institutions all over the world, and once-in-a-lifetime events and community programs.

For more information about centennial year events, visit

Contact the Museum's Media Relations Team:
(216) 707-2261