Hear the sounds of modern art

San Francisco Museum of Modern Art


7 weeks


Angela Chen,
UX Director


Conversation Design
UX Research


Losing interest in audio tours

SFMOMA had been experiencing a decline in visitor engagement with their audio guided tours. In an effort to revitalize this experience, I undertook this project as part of a Spatial Design course, aiming to understand the underlying issues through user research and propose a prototype solution. The end goal was to create an engaging and user-friendly Audio Augmented Reality experience.

The Problem

How might we help visitors enjoy the stories behind art work without distractions?

Complicated and Linear Experience

The current audio tour experience relies on a mobile application, diverting users' attention away from the art. Moreover, the linear structure of the tour lacks intuitive interactions.

Too Many Actions Required to Interact

To access more information about an artwork, visitors need to locate a QR code or number, then use an application to access the relevant content. This process is time-consuming and cumbersome for visitors.

Introducing SFMOMA AR Experience

An Audio Augmented Reality Concept

Our solution is an Audio Augmented Reality experience inspired by Wassily Kandinsky's concept that colors have sounds. Visitors can explore the museum at their own pace, wearing their headphones, and seamlessly interact with audio content when they encounter an interactive artwork, all without the need for screens or applications.

Ideation & Concept

The Concept - Digital Rooms

Were imagined the museum as a collection of virtual rooms, each dedicated to specific artworks. When visitors approach an interactive artwork, they can effortlessly engage with it.

Using Headphone Sensors

Modern headphones equipped with GPS, gyroscopes, and accelerometers are the only technology required to navigate the museum. These sensors allow us to precisely determine the visitor's location and offer context-specific experiences.

Impact & Learning


The Director of Experience at SFMOMA expressed enthusiasm for the concept, acknowledging its potential to attract a younger audience to the museum.

Screen-less Interactions

Audio is a powerful medium, and previous audio tours relied on screens, detracting from the immersive experience. Our screen-less approach ensures a more engaging and distraction-free encounter with art.

Understanding Users' Environments

By grasping the primary objectives of museum visitors and the contextual clues within the museum environment, we were able to deliver a solution that aligns with their expectations.


In conclusion, the Audio Augmented Reality experience designed for SFMOMA represents a user-centered approach to revitalizing the traditional audio tour. By addressing the issues of distraction and complexity, we've created an engaging, screen-less interaction that aligns with the needs and preferences of museum-goers. This case study highlights the transformative potential of immersive technology in enhancing cultural experiences.

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