Can't tell Monet from Manet? Let Google's latest app be your tour guide

Google’s new rendition of virtual reality museums inside the Arts & Culture app isn’t an unexpected move, but with the update the tech giant is also enhancing the museum experience for those who visit in a traditional sense. Google is currently beta testing Art Recognizer software that uses a smartphone camera to scan artwork before essentially take visitors on an unmanned tour.

Along with virtual tours of 20 locations around the world with Google Cardboard, the updated Arts & Culture app uses a camera to recognize works of art, then brings up audio, video, text and links about the piece and the artist. The feature is available in the app’s latest update, but is only being beta tested in three locations: London’s Dulwich Picture Gallery, Sydney’s Art Gallery of South Wales, and the National Art Gallery in Washington, D.C.

While current unmanned tours require visitors to move through the exhibit in a specific order, the Art Recognizer tool allows you to wander without missing out on the background details of each piece.

Along with testing the art recognition tool, the app serves as a way for those who can’t travel to see some of the world’s top art and cultural sites in 360, from street art in Rome to the Greek temple of Zeus.

The latest version of Google Arts & Cultures, available for both iOS and Android, also includes a search tool, as well as a way to scroll through artwork by time period and even browse by color. Along with the app, the Google Arts & Culture’s website and YouTube channel share cultural stories.

Google’s Cultural Institute will likely work to bring more places and features to the app in the future. After all, the group has also crafted a virtual tour of the Guggenheim with its Street View imaging tools, and designed a gigapixel robotic camera for digitizing artwork — and that’s just this year.

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