How Google Glass could change the way we view art

Trial uses wearable computers to overlay information on paintings

It is a frustration familiar to anyone who has attended a blockbuster exhibition – the scrummages around the information cards that make it impossible to read about the paintings on show.

But the need for sharp elbows at art galleries could soon be a thing of the past thanks to Google Glass spectacles and pioneering research being carried out by British-based scientists .

A team from Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU) is investigating how Google’s new wearable computers can be used to display instant information on artworks as visitors walk round museums, possibly replacing gallery guidebooks and audio guides entirely.

The George Stubbs painting Cheetah and Stag with Two Indians at Manchester Art Gallery has been selected as a test subject, with visitors ranging from art students to senior citizens trying out the new technology.

The wearer uses the spectacles to take a picture of the painting. This is recognised by Google Glass, which provides them with the artwork information they would usually read on the wall. Audio information about Stubbs, the 17th century English artist best known for his paintings of horses, is also available for the wearer to select.

George Stubbs’s ‘Cheetah and Stag with Two Indians’, painted in 1765, is being used to test the service

A university spokeswoman said the early responses to the trial had been positive. “The testers were made up of a mix of art gallery goers who decided to take part on the day and techies who’d seen a call-out on Twitter. They were all ages, genders and occupations. After a bit of getting used to the Glass they all seemed to have fun with it and gave us some great feedback.”

The project was dreamed up following a visit from the California-based Google Glass software designer Cecilia Abadie, of 33 Lab Inc, who is working with the MMU team to develop the necessary software.

Read more: Google Glass on sale to 'anyone' in the US
'Google Glass helped me save a life' says doctor

Further testing for the Google Glass Augmented Reality Project will be carried out on six more paintings at the gallery later this month. The team hopes by then the glasses will also be able to provide suggestions and recommend similar works, for example other oil paintings of that period or other works by Stubbs. The wearer could then be guided to their location in the gallery.

Another potential use is sharing information within groups of visitors, so friends can recommend particular paintings to each other while in different rooms.

Dr Timothy Jung, from the university’s department of tourism management, believes the project could transform the museum experience.

“I think Google Glass is going to be huge in every industry. If you’re looking at a guidebook or even your phone, that creates a barrier between you and the art – it makes it harder for you to engage,” he said. “Using Glass in this way removes that barrier, you can engage directly with the artworks and have access to the background information. It will really enrich the experience.

“Wearables – whether that’s Google Glass, watches or even clothing – are going to be the future of tourism.”

Further plans for the project include testing the technology on sculptures and three-dimensional works. Dr Jung said: “Manchester was the home of the Industrial revolution, so it’s right that it could be a part of the digital revolution as well.”

Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Gadgets & Tech

    Ashdown Group: Field Service Engineer

    £30000 - £32000 per annum + car allowance and on call: Ashdown Group: A succes...

    Ashdown Group: Linux Systems Engineer - Linux, Windows, Cloud - Central London

    £40000 - £48000 per annum + 10% bonus & benefits: Ashdown Group: Systems Engin...

    Recruitment Genius: Configuration and Logistics Team Member

    £16000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company has over 30 years ...

    Guru Careers: Creative Director / Head of Creative

    £65K - £75K (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Creative Director...

    Day In a Page

    Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

    Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

    How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
    Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

    Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

    Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
    Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

    Aviation history is littered with grand failures

    But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
    Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

    Fortress Europe?

    Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
    Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

    Never mind what you're wearing

    It's what you're reclining on that matters
    General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

    Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

    The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
    Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

    Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

    Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
    Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

    Marginal Streets project documents voters

    Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
    Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

    The real-life kingdom of Westeros

    Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
    How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

    How to survive a Twitter mauling

    Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
    Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

    At dawn, the young remember the young

    A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

    Follow the money as never before

    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

    Samuel West interview

    The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
    General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence