About Aurasma

 Welcome to Aurasma!


What is Aurasma?

Aurasma is a free mobile app that works to create an “augmented reality.” Augmented reality, or AR for short, is the layering of digital information on top of the physical world.

For example, watch the video below:

The pictures, newspapers and cereal box are all the “physical world”. The videos that show up on the iPhone screen are “digital information.”

When the “physical world” part and the “digital information” part are combined, an “augmented reality” is created. In Aurasma, this combination is called an “aura.”

What does this have to do with S. I. Accessibility Morning at the Museum: National Portrait Gallery?

Throughout the museum we have chosen several portraits and created “auras” for them.

In American Presidents for example, you can use the app and watch one of Theodore Roosevelt’s speeches. Or visit BRAVO! and watch Elvis in concert.

By combining this app with your museum time, we aim to bring the portraits to life and provide a more interactive experience for you and your child. Adding the Auras gives the portraits a life of there own and provides more context the imagine itself.


This is not a perfect system. The app is dependent on having a wifi or other internet connection to work. Additionally, the viewfinder can be finicky. Although we have tried to choose pictures that work 100% of the time, a change in lighting or another uncontrollable factor can cause the app to be unable to recognize the image. When the app is not able to recognize the image the overlay will not appear. Please keep this in mind while touring the museum. 

How do you use Aurasma?

To start with you will have to download the app on to your smart phone or tablet device.

You can get to the app by opening your iTunes app store and searching for Aurasma. Once you have reached the Aurasma page, tap on the blue “FREE” button. Then tap on “INSTALL APP.”

You will be asked to enter your apple ID and Password.

Once those have been entered correctly, the app will begin to download.

You can also find this app by clicking on the following link:  https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/aurasma/id432526396?mt=8

It should take you to a page that looks like this:


From this page you will either be able to download the app directly or can click on “View in iTunes” and download it from there.

What do I do after I have downloaded Aurasma?

Now it is time to set Aurasma up and get started!

Tap the Aurasma icon on your screen to open the app. The app will ask you to “swipe left” and take you through a brief tutorial explaining the different icons and features in Aurasma.

Next it will ask you to either sign in or create an account. If you do not want to create an account at this time you can choose to skip this step by tapping “skip.”

In order to view any of the “Auras” Smithsonian Access has created you will have to follow our Aurasma channel. To find this channel, tap on the “A” symbol at the bottom of the page. This will take you a page with many different “auras.” Along the bottom of the page you will see several icons, tap on the magnifying glass and then search “S.I. Access” or simply “Access”. This will take you to a page with several options. Tap “Channels” in the right hand corner and then S.I. Access. Once you reach the next page, look again in the top corner and tap “Follow.”

Now you are all set!

Test it out!

Click the view button at the bottom of your screen to take you back to the viewing screen. The view button looks like the corners of a square.

Aim the Aurasma viewfinder at the picture below and watch what happens. Does a purple spiral or white circle followed by a video appear? Now tap on the video. If all goes according to plan you should be redirected to this website and more information about the picture!

Bob Willoughby (1927–2009)  Gelatin silver print, 1951 (printed 1991)

Feel free to browse through the home page of this site for all of the portraits we have designed Auras for. Can you find all of them during you visit to the National Portrait Gallery?


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