Google has amped up its augmented reality offerings and now it’s expanding virtual reality experiences, too. Google Perspectives is part of Google Arts & Culture and lets anyone at home, in the office or anywhere with computer access really take celebrity-guided cultural tours and experiences in virtual reality.
Who are the tour guides? Lin-Manuel Miranda hosts a tour of New York, Venus Williams guides a tennis experience, Muzi hosts a tour of all the places in South Africa that hold meaning to his life and career, soccer player Danielle Espinoza showcases futbol history in Mexico and more. Each experience features a different perspective.
Who Can Take the Tours?
Google Perspectives can be viewed via a PC, a phone or tablet. High-speed internet will likely improve the experience, as tour guides showcase up close virtual looks at certain locations. Experiences include videos hosted by the guides, but they also include additional perspectives on specific topics.
For example, Dani Espinoza hosts a video looking at different places in Mexico; viewers can see the historic arch formation that is visible every four years when the tide is low. Espinoza’s experience also includes a more detailed look at the history of futbol in Mexico.
As with most Google experiences, Perspectives is free to view. And, while Perspectives includes some virtual reality-type visuals during tours, this doesn’t require any special goggles or headsets. Those who want to experience Perspectives via a phone or tablet should download the Google Arts & Culture app. The app is free.
There are numerous experiences via Perspectives, and users might want to scroll through the options.
Google Arts & Culture: The Experiences!
The Arts & Culture app includes many virtual and augmented reality experiences, and, quite frankly, users can spend hours exploring all the offerings. Users can tour Paris rooftops, museums, create a blob opera and more!
“Walk Around 5 Parisian Rooftops!”
The rooftop tours of the City of Lights include the Eiffel Tower, of course! Really, what is a Paris experience without views from atop the Eiffel Tower? Take a virtual walk on the roof of the Paris Opera, the Grand Palais, Philharmonie de Paris, and Saint-Jacques Tower.
Users navigate through the rooftop tours via arrow icons. Just use your fingers to walk around and see different views of Paris.
The Easter Island Moai
Google Arts & Culture also gives users a close-up encounter with Easter Island’s Moai statues. This experience includes different tours of Easter Island. Users can explore Ahu Ura Uranga, Ahu Nau Nau, and the Moai. This isn’t just a picture experience or a slideshow. Users navigate the tours and can get an up-close look at the monuments.
Google also provides information about the different sites, too.
The Blob Opera
While not exactly virtual or augmented reality, the Blob Opera is entertaining nonetheless. Users create their own operatic experience featuring cute blog animations. Blobs drop in front of the user, and the pitch can be changed for each character.
Record the masterpiece and send the blobs on tour, too!
Multiple museums offer virtual tours via Google Arts and Culture. Parents who just don’t know what to do on a rainy day and who may be desperately trying to find something cool for kids stuck at home can schedule some virtual visits.
Museums that offer virtual tours on the Google app include:
Art Institute of Chicago
Users are given a street view of the museum, and then they can scroll down via the app to tour the museum. What does Google prompt users to find? That would be the painting “American Gothic” by artist Grant Wood. This painting features an elderly couple in front of their home; the husband holds a pitchfork. Unfortunately, other paintings are blurred.However, there also is an option to take a scavenger hunt at the museum…virtually!
The virtual tour of Guggenheim (in Bilbao, Spain) lets users explore different works featured in the museum. “The Renowned Orders of the Night” by Anselm Kiefer can be enlarged to see the details up close! Other works also can be viewed up close via the tour.
Royal Academy of Arts
Walk up the staircase to view the Wohl Entrance Hall. The main page for the Royal Academy of Arts tour also includes tours of other galleries and even the Poster Bar.
Located in Berlin, the museum tour includes a look at different pieces found in the museum, including the Quran Box, the Temple of Zeus Sosipolis from Magnesia on the Maeander, the Statue of Athena Parthenos and more.
Snap a Selfie to Find Artwork
One of Google Art & Culture popular features is the Art Selfie tool. The experience requires letting Google access the device camera. Users then snap a selfie to find out what famous artwork best resembles them.
Google’s recognition tool will include several results sorted by the match percentage. The results can be really cool, maybe even a little horrifying and sometimes downright odd. It can be fun to find out what artistic masterpiece most resembles each individual, though! Results may differ depending on face angle, too. It can also be fun to make ridiculous faces and see what artwork the distorted selfie might twin.
Art Selfie isn’t augmented or virtual reality…at least not completely. Graphic dots will appear over the selfie photo showing that the software is working to find an artful match.
Augmented Reality and Google
While many experiences in Google Arts & Culture use virtual reality-type features to navigate the tours, Google also offers many augmented reality experiences worth highlighting yet again!
To help individuals social distance, for example, Google offers Sodar (which is short for “social distancing radar”). Sodar creates an augmented reality circle around the individual to show where six feet ends in every direction.
Floom is one of the newer augmented reality releases from Google. Users aim their camera anywhere in the home, outside or wherever. They can then dig a virtual hole or tunnel (although the swirling looks more like a vortex) to see the other side of the Earth. Users can then explore the new location. Floom lets users angle their vortex, too, so one location can actually show different new places on the flipside.
Unfortunately, Google’s augmented reality features only work for those with Google devices…Android! Apple or Windows users are out of luck.
Android users can explore all the augmented reality experiences for free. There is no cost to download or access them.
Augmented Search Results
Anyone with a PC, smartphone or tablet can enjoy Google’s augmented reality search results, though. While there isn’t a comprehensive list of the vehicles, animals and other characters augmented in the Search engine, the mystery is kind of part of the fun.
Media reported that famous anime characters like Hello Kitty, Ultraman, Pac-Man and others are part of the augmented world of search. But animals and cars tend to be hit or miss. Users will have to search for animals or other creatures to see if Google offers an augmented option.
The augmented reality features can be entertaining. For example, dropping Pac-Man into the user’s environment showcases the anime character chomping away at pellets with a gang of ghosts following him. Hello Kitty says hello in Japanese and converses, too (also in Japanese and English) when dropped in the space, and she can be moved around, too.
A shark also can be augmented, and it swims in the room (or wherever). Users can move it around, and the experience features the bubbling sound of its underwater habitat. An augmented reality lion moves its head a bit and roars.
Take a Google augmented search scavenger hunt to see what new experiences can be uncovered.
Going Virtual Beyond Google?
Virtual tours have likely increased in popularity during the year (and beyond) of the pandemic. Families and individuals were stuck at home and many didn’t want to travel…maybe even when mandates were lifted.
While museums might have offered virtual tours before Covid, taking tours from home might be a new alternative form of travel. Many individuals are still working from home, and some simply don’t feel entirely comfortable exploring places where crowds congregate.
During Covid, some museums offered virtual classes and tours. These experiences might have included a fee. However, the offerings allowed families stuck at home to enjoy cultural experiences from their couch, their office or even while working out on a treadmill.
Virtual tours and experiences like those offered via Google also provide glimpses into places where some simply cannot travel. Finances could limit travel and cultural experiences for many families. These tours and ‘perspectives’ help introduce different sites and cultural experiences to a wider audience.
Virtual experiences could be a way to create more equitable cultural tourism. While museums and even cultural sites rely on donations and ticket costs to help keep doors open (and employees paid), some could expand virtual offerings or maybe even offer paid virtual tours (perhaps at a more affordable cost).
Augmented reality and virtual reality experiences will likely evolve both within Google and other platforms, too. Perhaps augmented reality will drive all search engines in the future. Perspectives could expand to include more narratives, tours and…perspectives. Popularity may drive demand, and the user’s adoption of these experiences could propel them into everyday use…and necessity.