When was the last time you went to a museum? For most, it was a time when iPhone’s didn’t exist and you had to step outside of the house for some entertainment. Not everyone can visit Tokyo’s National Museum of Western Art, and stare upon Claude Monet’s “Tiger Lilies” in person, or come face to face with the Mona Lisa. Art and culture, despite its appeal to almost everyone, is often found to be inaccessible to most. But Google’s Cultural Institute wants to change that.

Over the last 5 years, the institute has been working behind the scenes teaming up with over 1,000 institutes to bring artwork, artefacts, and 360-degree museum tours to your mobile phone. And now, with its arts and culture app, your phone becomes a portal to places you thought you’d never go to.

The app, which was released last year, comes with two key additions in the latest update. Google Cardboard Tours for 20 locations, including the Valley of the Temples and a new tool called Art Recognizers that turns your museum visit into a multimedia experience.

The virtual reality tours included with the Google Cardboard feature takes you along a predetermined route, allowing you to explore stunning locations. Whilst you are on your route, an audio track narrates what you’re looking at, offering the insight and knowledge you’d experience if you were there in person. However engaging the Cardboard experience is, it still leaves you longing to visit the location in real life as there’s no such thing as a replacement of witnessing it first hand, but the virtual tour is a great alternative.

Art Recognizer on the other hand, is an experimental new feature that helps for when you finally decide to visit these places in real life. Whilst you are walking through a museum, the Recognizer help you learn more about the art you’re looking at, and all you have to do is simply point your phone’s camera at the piece itself. Google’s pioneering software recognises the work and sends information such as audio, video and background info on the artist etc. to your phone. This makes the museum tour experience less linear and more instant for users, as rather than following a prescribed path through the museum; you can view the art in whichever order you desire.

It’s good to see the advancements in technology being used for good, to keep society cultured and engaged with art, rather than making thousands of people dash around cities looking for Pokémon. On a side note, anyone know where I can find a Dragonite?

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