​Google's Tango: Now your phone lets you explore history beyond museum exhibits

Google will partner with museums around the world to give visitors a taste of its Tango augmented-reality phones.

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Google's Tango augmented-reality tech lets visitors view art and artefacts through a phone's display to expose additional contextual information, such as an X-ray view of the skeleton of a 2,000-year-old mummy inside its coffin.

Image: Google

Google is one-upping the traditional audio guide by teaming up with museums around the world to give visitors an augmented-reality experience of historical artworks through Lenovo's Tango-enabled Phab 2 Pro phones.

The Tango partnerships, starting with the Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA), will give Google's nascent augmented-reality (AR) platform for phones some extra exposure and offer a template for museums to enhance exhibitions with AR mobile tours.

Visitors to the DIA will be able to ask the front desk for Lenovo's 6.4-inch display Phab 2 Pro phone, the first handset to support Google's Tango-based AR apps, which uses depth sensors and loads of processing power to superimpose digital objects on real scenes.

The Detroit-based museum worked with app maker GuidiGO to build a Tango app called Lumin, which packages 3D mapping and AR into a mobile tour.

While the Phab 2 Pro is an early iteration of Tango-enabled hardware, its AR capabilities make it an ideal tool to refresh the ageing audio tour.

The DIA has added AR overlays, videos, photographs, sounds, and touch-based animations to show what can't be seen and help visitors understand an exhibit in its historical context.

Visitors can view art and artefacts through the phone's display to expose additional contextual information, such as an X-ray view of the skeleton of a 2,000-year-old mummy inside its coffin, faded limestone sculptures in the richer colors they would have been had thousands of years ago, and a digital reconstruction of the six-storey high Ishtar Gate of Babylonia that extends the serpent panel from the gate in the DIA's collection.

It's also added a few games, such as puzzles and quizzes, that once solved reveal sounds and images relevant to an artwork, as well as maps to guide visitors to different galleries, restrooms, restaurants, and the museum shop.

"Lumin connects visitors with artworks in a global context beyond the DIA," DIA director Salvador Salort-Pons said.

"Augmented reality allows the user to see the unseen, imagine art in its original setting and understand how objects were used and experienced in people's everyday lives. It's an exciting way to incorporate the latest technology into the visitor experience."

Google hasn't revealed which other museums the Tango partnership will extend to but promises that the technology will be coming to museums around the world.

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