Museums to use Google’s Tango AR platform to spice up exhibits

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Google Inc. announced today that it is opening up its Tango augmented reality platform to a number of museums around the world, starting today with the Detroit Institute of Arts.

Through a partnership with virtual tour publishing app GuidiGO, the Detroit Institute of Arts has used Tango to create a new AR experience called Lumin, which allows museum goers to explore the exhibits in ways that would not be possible without the emerging technology.

For example, users can view the skeletal outline of a mummy inside a sarcophagus, see the original paint on reliefs that are thousands of years old, and test out an ancient seal cylinder, which creates a flat image when rolled in ink. Obviously, the museum curators do not want visitors opening up sarcophagi or rolling ancient artifacts in ink, so Lumin offers the next best thing.

Tango is a good fit for this sort of museum experience because the platform relies on computer vision rather than external systems like Wi-Fi or GPS to keep track of the device’s position and orientation. This allows Tango to function well indoors with minimal setup involved.

Google first revealed Tango in 2014, and since then, a few companies have tried out the platform to create their own AR experiences. For example, BMW announced last week that it would be using a Tango-powered app to allow users to view customizable features for a vehicle before purchase. GuidiGO, which worked with the Detroit Institute of Arts on Lumin, has also been an early adopter of Tango and has used the AR platform to create a number of virtual tour experiences.

Unfortunately, few devices actually support Tango at the moment, so most visitors will likely not be able to use their own phones with Lumin or other Tango-powered museum apps. However, visitors to the Detroit Institute of Arts can pick up a Tango-enabled Lenovo Phab 2 Pro phone from the museum’s front desk.

According to Google, other Tango AR experiences will be coming to museums around the world, but the company has not made any specific announcements yet.

Photo credit: Michael Barera [CC BY-SA 4.0, CC BY-SA 3.0, GFDL or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons