What if you could instantly see visitor reactions when you explored the Philadelphia Museum of Art? - Technical.ly Philly


What if you could instantly see visitor reactions when you explored the Philadelphia Museum of Art?

That's one of the projects being created by participants of the PMA’s second hackathon, where one winning team will get $2000. Watch the demos this Wednesday.

Steven Denisevicz showing off his group's AR functionality.

(GIF by Albert Hong)

We know all about the empowering nature of open data and how it can serve more than just the tech community, so it’s always great to see that sort of attitude being shared across different communities.

That idea of providing information for cool, innovative results is a big sticking point for the Philadelphia Museum of Art’s second hackathon being held throughout this month, where the top five teams will present to the public and judges at an event on Wednesday, May 3 as part of Philly Tech Week 2017 presented by Comcast. A prize of $2,000 is on the line for the winner.

RSVP for the demo night below.


This year’s hackathon is focused on making a gaming experience that gets people to interact more deeply with the art at the museum. To help the participants, museum staff created an API for easier and more streamlined access to their database of information on the art collection. Compared to the Excel spreadsheet that the museum provided last year, this was an experiment to see what people would be able to do and create when given this kind of access to the more than 125,000 works on their website, according to Bill Weinstein, director of information and interpretive technologies at the PMA.

It’s a chance for the museum to learn not only what they can do to increase engagement through the products coming out of these hackathons but to also understand what they can change about the ways the museum is run.

“We also use it internally for cultural change so that we get a better sense of how to think about design, how to think about technology, how to think about designing art technology pieces and how to think about them doing it in a more iterative space,” Weinstein said.

For example, Jessica Milby, assistant director for collection information in the PMA’s information and interpretive technologies department, learned that the museum website wasn’t providing the information that site visitors were most searching for — styles, periods and movements like Impressionism.


“We know these things but we don’t necessarily tag the works of art in that way because it just isn’t the language curators use to talk about the works of art in the core catalogue,” Milby said.

This is something that Milby and her coworkers need to work on. It’s one of the reasons for this kind of hackathon to take place.

“We have to start adapting the way we talk about art so that people can not only understand it but feel a part of it, like this is something I can engage with,” she added.

Also, as someone who sits down at a computer all day long working with data about the art in the museum, she’s excited to see people outside of the immediate art community doing the same kind of thing at these events. Shawn Pierre, cofounder of game developer meetup Philly Dev Night, and some other members are also involved in this hackathon not only to offer their expertise on making games but to keep up Philly Dev Night’s push to branch out to other communities.

“We are a lot of different people who do a lot of different things,” Pierre said. “We’re looking to become more connected with everyone in Philadelphia.”

So without further ado, here are some of the gaming experiences being created that you may soon see for yourself at the museum.

# # #

Steve Shim, Steven Denisevicz, Moe Woodard, Hannah Klales, Zac Chelbi and Kristin DeChiaro are all part of the Blueberry Barracudas team and their project takes the old school Collectathon genre and combines it with the king-of-the-hill aspect of the game Splatoon.

Their app has you first sign up for one of two competing teams and using a map of the museum, players are tasked with visiting different rooms and answering questions of varying difficulty. Depending on how correct the answer is, the room is marked with your team’s pin. The team with the most pins throughout the museum wins.

The neat part is the ways players get their questions — when holding up your map to your phone camera in any given room, a 3D-animated figure will pop up on the phone using augmented reality tech to give out each question.

“I think we all agree that the museum is one of the coolest places in the city that no one goes to, that everyone should go to,” Denisevicz said. “There’s so much cool shit here.”

# # # #

Ethan Miller, Valentina Feldman, Jacob Cook, James Swanick and Matthew Fisher — all part of Fishtown design firm Night Kitchen Interactive — are creating what they’re calling Dreamscapes. It’s an AR and VR experience utilizing Google’s often-nightmarish DeepDream tool to take different spaces of the museum and turn them into the styles of various artists.

You’re tasked with finding special paintings throughout the museum and once you take a picture, that painting’s style is unlocked. You’re then able to visit certain locations around the museum, hold up your phone and see what the physical space around you would look like if it was painted by that specific artist.

“It’s one thing seeing these different artists’ styles operating within a square but to feel it all around you, you get a much stronger feel of the painterly styles of these artists,” Miller said.

# # # #

Swarthmore University undergraduate students Ellen Liu, Allison Rosenzweig and Emily Cui are in the process of also creating an AR experience, this being the first time they’re working with that kind of tech.

Their idea involves taking their app around the museum and collecting art pieces by reacting to them  they’re thinking something like Facebook reactions or one-word reactions. Everyone’s reactions will then be able to be viewed through an AR function as you hold up your phone camera to the art.

As for how they found the time to come to the hackathon amidst the end of the school semester, funnily enough, they got the their school department to pay for the trip.

“It was surprisingly easy,” Rosenzweig said.

Subscribe to our Newsletters
Connect with companies from the Technical.ly community
New call-to-action


Technically Media

Sign-up for daily news updates from Technical.ly Philadelphia