Explore the Detroit Art Museum With Google Tango AR

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Google is taking the museum self-guided audio tour to the next level with Project Tango and a partnership with the Detroit Institute of Arts.

At the museum's front desk, visitors will be able to request a Lenovo Phab 2 Pro smartphone to view in AR how some of the museum's exhibits from Mesopotamia, Babylonia, and Ancient Egypt might have looked when they were new.

The Phab 2 Pro, introduced last spring, is the first phone to come with Tango's capabilities built in, including 3D motion tracking and depth sensing that detects your precise location indoors without a GPS signal. That means an overlay of the giant Ishtar Gate from Ancient Babylonia, for instance, syncs up perfectly with the small piece of it on display in the Detroit museum.

Tango's alternate reality capabilities also let museum goers see a Mesopotamian limestone relief in its original colors and interact with virtual models of the small cylindrical seals that ancient artists used to create everything from jewelry to signatures on administrative documents.

While the Detroit experiment is Tango's first public museum collaboration, Google showed off its vision for AR-enhanced exhibits at Mobile World Congress last February. That demonstration also included a mapping feature that helped visitors find their way around the museum, although it occasionally became confused and dropped location tracking.

For now, Phab 2 owners can't download the tour onto their own devices, but Google hinted that it has grand plans for Tango's ability to interpret art, including expanding it to more museums worldwide. Meanwhile, if you'd prefer to experience art without the museum crowds, Google's robotic camera has captured gigapixel photographs of more than 1,000 works, including everything from the Mona Lisa to Philadelphia's murals.

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