Starting today, Google Glass owners will be able to enjoy an “augmented tour” of the Keith Haring exhibition at the De Young Museum in San Francisco. The company showed me the demo on Saturday during the exhibition’s opening hours.
De Young Museum is the first museum to officially partner with GuidiGo to offer a guided tour on Google Glass. To enable the technology, the art institution had to place one BLE beacon per artwork that is related to additional content. Each beacon triggers the related animation on Glass when the visitor approaches a painting marked with the audio sign. GuidiGo develops the software platform, and Antenna created the audio and visual content in partnership with De Young .
I have a Graphic Design background and I graduated from an Art University in Europe, so, I was quite thrilled to try a useful application on Glass that would enhance an art exhibition with contextual information. I learned a lot about Keith Haring’s inspiration and the political messages in his work, thanks to the historical photographs and the animations I could see on Glass while walking around. The best learning experience was delivered with the visual animations that deciphered different parts of the paintings with audio explanations of their meaning. Seeing a video of KeithHaring painting in the subway in NYC was also a great way to understand better how he created his art.
The audio track is almost similar to the one you will get in the regular audio guided tour traditionally provided at De Young, however, the addition of visual content provided another dimension to the learning experience. It would be great to see the names and photos of all the people who speak on the soundtrack, since I could not remember their names by just hearing them, which is a pity knowing that some of the interviewees were of a great influence in Keith Haring’s life.
During the tour, I experienced a few “glitches”, meaning in the room where 2 or more beacons were close to each other, sometimes the animation that started to play was not the one related to the painting I was in front of. It was easy to go back to the right content by discarding the one playing (down swipe on the right leg), then the right one started playing. I suspect that the presence of hundreds of mobile phones emitting all kinds of electronic signals would probably produce a lot of interference and alters the beacons ability to connect accurately.
Despite the interferences, the entire experience was great and I can imagine GuidiGo becoming a great publishing platform for museums all over the place. Anyone can create content easily from the GuidiGo website, the free subscription lets you create 2 tours per month, for $125 a month you can create 10 tours and 20 tours for $200 and get additional pro-features.
Check out the type of animation you can see in an art museum from the video below. Please note that I have not been able to get a video from the Keith Haring exhibition, but you will get a pretty good idea with this example.
After a discussion with David Lerman, CEO of GuidiGo, I confirmed that when there is a lot of people in a gallery it may produce more interferences since beacons are also sensitive to the human body and any kind of solid material that can block the signal.
Additionally, I know that beacons do not have a great accuracy when it comes to distance, they still do not provide numeric distance, but three approximate positions: far, near and immediate. For now GuidiGo avoid using image recognition instead of beacons because it does not work with sculpture. We suggest that this would be possible by using a Z-camera (like the one used by Kinect) but Glass does not feature one… yet.
Editor’s note about the links sources from the previous paragraph: Please note that the beacons used in the De young do not look like the Estimote beacons, however the principle explained in their developer forum are similar for all BLE beacons – to know more about beacons and the distance accuracy read this page: http://blog.shinetech.com/2014/02/17/the-beacon-experiments-low-energy-bluetooth-devices-in-action/