Virtual Tours and Augmented Reality with Google Arts and Culture
News on July 12 2019
Through the arts we have a window into the values, perspectives, and capabilities of other people across time and space. Google Arts and Culture allows educators to bring works from around the world into their classrooms to enrich their pedagogy. The Google Arts and Culture website and app also utilize Google Maps and augmented reality in some accessible and meaningful ways. Below is some information on what Google Arts and Culture is, and a breakdown of the Art Projector and Pocket Gallery tools.
Google Arts and Culture: A Virtual Art Gallery
Google Arts and Culture, a part of the Google Cultural Institute, was launched in 2011 with 17 partner museums, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the National Gallery in London, the State Hermitage Museum, and Uffizi. The collection has since expanded to hundreds of museums and landmarks around the world. Users can search for specific artists, or browse works from time periods, artistic movements, and collections. The website also has several user curated collections that focus on specific topics. The site has also expanded into natural history museums, allowing users to view specific artifacts and take virtual tours.
One of the most engaging aspects of this resource is the Museum Views feature. By going here, users can take walking tours of 3,141 museums and landmarks. Some popular options are Versailles, the White House, the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, and the National Museum of Anthropology in Mexico City. Once inside, users can click through the museum to explore various rooms. There is also an option to learn more about specific works in the tour as the user works their way through the museum. Additionally, some landmarks have background information about the location with primary sources. The Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. page is particularly well put together. Science teachers could also take students through several natural history museums, some of which include 3D videos with additional animations.
Augmented Reality Options in the App
The Google Arts and Culture app, which can be downloaded onto any smartphone and is compatible with iPads, has all the tools of the website, along with some exciting augmented reality tools. Augmented reality (AR) is when a computer super-imposes an image onto a view of the real world. If you have used Instagram or Snapchat filters to add things like cat ears to selfies, or if you’ve played PokemonGO, then you have already used AR. Good job!
To unlock the AR tools in the Google Arts and Culture app, give the app access to your device’s camera. This will allow you to use a few functions, including the Art Selfie and the Color Palette. These are both fun features that have several uses. This post will be focusing on the second two, which is the Art Projector and Pocket Gallery.
1. Art Projector
Make sure there is some space available when using this feature. First, the user scans a flat surface using their device. After this, several works of art become available that can be dragged out into the space using augmented reality. This gives the viewer a sense of the scale for the work, allowing them to better experience the work as the artist intended. On a personal note, one of my favorite works of art is Guernica by Picasso. I was fortunate enough to see it in person when I was in Madrid. I was floored to discover that the work was the size of a wall (11½ feet by 25½ feet for those who don’t want to look it up)!
As another example, here is an image of The Scream by Edvard Munch. I searched it through the explore feature on Google Docs and picked what I thought was the closest approximation to what it looks like in real life. I imagine this is what most teachers use when using art in a lesson.
Now let’s see the same painting dropped into a physical space using the Art Projector. Some differences are immediately apparent. For one thing, the colors and textures are far richer than in the image found online. There is also a much more tactile nature to the work once it is placed in a physical space. Other works that can be accessed through this feature include The Ambassadors, Mona Lisa, and Girl with a Pearl Earring. With this tool, teachers can make their classrooms into an art museum for students to explore!
2. Pocket Gallery
The pocket gallery feature shows how much educational potential there is in augmented reality. Once loaded, the user can drop a galley of Vermeer artwork on the ground. Once inside, users can either walk or click through the gallery, zooming in on works to gather information. Teachers could have a lesson outside or send their students on a virtual field trip to learn more about the Baroque Period, the Dutch Golden Age, and augmented reality.
To give an idea of just how immersive this technology is, below are two pictures I took from my iPhone. The one on the left is from my desk and the one on the right is from the VR gallery. What the two have in common is that my camera was pointed in the same direction!
I encourage anyone reading this to go to the Google Arts and Culture website to explore, either as an educational tool or for personal enrichment.
To access an additional resource on Google Arts and Culture, and the Google Cultural Institute at large, you can view our Teq Online PD session Using the Google Cultural Institute for a Unique Learning Opportunity.
Bresler, Ross. “Google Arts and Culture Tutorial.”
Harvey, Olivia. “Here’s everything you can do on the Google Arts and Culture app.”
Nast, Phil. “Google Arts & Culture.”