Weekly Tech Review – Week 6 Sketchfab – viewing 3D scans

Sketchfab

Overview:

Following on from last week’s review of publishing 3D models on Sketchfab, we are reviewing the user-experience of Sketchfab. Sketchfab is a platform where you can publish, share and discover 3D content. There are over 1.5 million scenes with a community of over 1 million creators you can follow, making Sketchfab the largest platform for immersive and interactive 3D content. As with most of our reviews, this is a free platform, where there is no cost to upload or access content.

What you need:

  • An internet connection
  • A computer or smartphone
  • The Sketchfab website or app (available for iOS and Android)

 Instructions:

The Sketchfab website is incredibly easy to use and navigate. For the purposes of this review, we visited the profile of the British Museum, who have made a concerted effort to publish 3D models online, and have uploaded 220 to date. Following on from this we explored the models that were tagged as ‘Cornwall’ and then filtered for ‘Cultural Heritage and Museums’. We particularly enjoyed the 3D models created by Tom Goskar.

Pros:

  • Detailed information has been provided next to the models. We selected the Queen piece from the Lewis Chess set – this showed information relating to the date of production, height, material, as well as meta-data about the person who took the 3D scan and what equipment was used.

  • There is the facility for multiple annotations when a model contains more than one object.

  • You can download the model for free, though if you wished to charge, there is the facility. This is dependent upon copyright restrictions – so if you don’t want people to download something, you don’t have to offer it.
  • You can add this model to your own collection, embed it on a website, like it, and share it on social media.
  • You can see how many people have viewed and liked the model, allowing museums to gauge the popularity of objects.
  • There is the facility to set different licenses for the download, for instance, the Queen is Creative Common Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike. The Creative Commons system of licensing is very straightforward, and you can easily work it out here.
  • People can comment on each model, allowing for extra information, feedback, and discussion amongst users.
  • You can tag each model with generic terms, making it easy for people to find your model while browsing.
  • Link to the museum’s website

Cons:

  • We were keen to try out the VR facility on the Sketchfab app with our trusty Google Cardboards, however, we noticed that all of the museum/heritage models that we looked at were not optimised for VR. This is not a criticism of Sketchfab per se, but more of a missed opportunity on behalf of museums. We did find some ‘VR ready’ models and found the experience to be absolutely brilliant, with the ability to move around the object (something that we noticed was noticeably lacking in Google Arts and Culture and Google Expeditions.
  • Viewing objects in VR version works perfectly for iOS devices. However, using an Android device takes a long time for the object to load in VR and, additionally, the user must install the Google VR Services app beforehand, in order to be able to view objects on Google cardboard (or any VR device).

General feedback:

We love Sketchfab! It presents a brilliant opportunity to freely share and disseminate 3D digital content and become a member of this burgeoning online community. We particularly like the idea of being able to comment on models and feel that this would be a useful tool in the co-curation of museum objects, enhancing digital engagement and participation.

We noticed that most of the models that have been tagged as ‘Cornwall’ are archaeological or architectural, so there is a need for museum object to comprehensively display Cornish heritage.

Score:

  • Price – 5/5
  • Ease of use- 5/5
  • Education – 5/5
  • Fun – 4.5/5

Overall score: 19.5

Jenny Lee and Yiota Liopetriti

Weekly Tech Review – Week 2 Google Expeditions + Google Cardboard

Last week we launched our Weekly Tech Review, where we started testing and reviewing all things digital. We started off with taking virtual tours using Google Cardboard and the Google Arts and Culture app – you can see our first blog here.

 

Google Expeditions + Google Cardboard

Overview:

Google Expeditions is a virtual-reality teaching tool. Users (or explorers) can swim with sharks, visit outer space, walk through a museum, and more, from the comfort of a house – or a classroom. It was originally created to target students within the classroom environment, but we believe there are countless possibilities for its use and applicability. Just to give you an idea, there are close to 500 expeditions available and more in development.

Similar to our review last week of the virtual reality tours on the Google Arts and Culture app, the aim of this review is to gain an idea of the user experience. Again, we are gauging whether it would be useful for Cornish Museums to create their own expeditionsfor others to experience.

In order to go on such virtual adventures, we, again, used Google Cardboard – available for under £10. Google Cardboard instantly transforms your smartphone into a virtual reality viewer. For the purposes of this review, we selected four different virtual expeditions; (i) the Parthenon, (ii) the Canterbury Cathedral, (iii) the London Transport Museum & their stores, and (iv) the Great Wall of China.

Equipment needed:

Instructions:

  1. Bear in mind that Google Expeditions only works with minimum 2 people: a Guide and at least one Explorer. Everyone needs to be connected to the same WIFI network for the app to work.
  2. First of all, you need to download the Google Cardboard App. This is free (see above).
  3. Open the Google Cardboard App and follow the online instructions to link your phone to your Google Cardboard.
  4. Next, download the Google Expeditions App from your smartphone’s app store. This is free (see above).
  5. Open the app on your smartphone. The person who is the Guide must open the app first and select the Tour Guide option. Then, the Explorer(s), who will also be the one(s) using Google Cardboard, must open the app and ‘follow’ the Tour Guide.
  6. The Guide then has control which expedition to take the Explorer(s) on. They select and download an expedition to, and it then automatically loads on the Explorer(s)’ smartphone.
  7. The Explorer(s) must then insert their smartphone onto Google Cardboard, and the tour starts.
  8. The Guide can read out loud an information text on their screen while the Explorer(s) are talking the tour, focus the Explorer’s attention on specific objects by tapping onto them, and ask questions at the end of the tour.
  9. Enjoy!

Pros:

  • The Google Expeditions app was free to download and Google Cardboard was cheap to buy, making it accessible to a wider audience
  • The experience was engaging, educational and immersive.
  • The visual quality in Google Expeditions was much better than Google Arts and Culture. It was not as jumpy and the users felt more comfortable after they removed Google Cardboard.
  • The Google Expeditions app offers a wide selection of expeditions (virtual tours) – both geographically and thematically, indoors and outdoors.
  • The Guide option allows access to specialist information and a list of questions for the Explorer(s). This is very easy to use by both parties.
  • In addition to the above, the app allows the Guide to focus on specific objects each time, enabling more coordination and cohesion within larger groups of Explorers.

Cons:

  • You can’t go on Google Expeditions unless you use it with at least one more person.
  • The app and the expedition takes a while to load and connect the Guide with the Explorer(s). It might be good to ensure you are using a fast WIFI connection.

General Feedback:

Overall, we thoroughly enjoyed this experience. We got to go to so many different places and learn so much without physically being there. We truly believe that this is a huge possibility for museums in Cornwall to be accessible to everyone within the county and the UK in general, and even globally. Museums have to potentially provide high quality images and content (information and questions).

Score:

  • Price: 5/5
  • Ease of use: 4.5/5
  • Educational benefit: 5/5
  • Fun: 5/5
Total: 19.5/20

 

Jenny Lee and Yiota Liopetriti

Weekly Tech Review – Week 1 Google Arts and Culture + Google Cardboard

This is the first instalment of a weekly review of all things digital. Each week we will look at a different digital application or technology and review it, thinking specifically about how this could be used by the museums in Cornwall.

As Digital Coordinator for CMP, I’m keen to find, and test-drive, new and different technologies, working out which ones will be useful for museums in Cornwall. Over the course of these reviews, we will also be handing devices and gadgets to a selection of museums to be tested by staff and volunteers.

Our primary focus is on low-cost or free applications that can be used with minimal effort and specialist knowledge. Each review will be given a score out of 20 and will be judged against four criteria: 1. cost, 2. ease of use, 3. educational benefit, and 4. fun! Within these reviews will look at the equipment needed, pros and cons and our general feedback.

We hope that through these reviews, you will get an honest and practical insight into how these technologies can be used within your museums, as well as providing achievable ideas!

If there is anything specific you would like us to test and review, or if you are interested in testing anything yourselves, please email me at jennylee@cornwallmuseumspartnership.org.uk 

 

Google Arts and Culture + Google Cardboard

Overview:

Google Arts and Culture is an online platform for museums, art galleries and cultural institutions to display their images online. This also includes Google Streetviews inside museums and virtual tours – it is the virtual tour element that we are trying out this week. In future weeks we will review the other areas of this app.

This initial review of the virtual tour element of Google Arts and Culture looks at how immersive and easy to use these tours are, with a view to creating virtual tours of Cornish museums. In a future week we will review how easy it is to create your own tour, but for this week we are focussing on participating in a tour as a visitor.

In order to test out these virtual tours we used a Google Cardboard; these are available for under £10 and can be purchased easily from Amazon (see equipment list below). Google Cardboard instantly transforms your smartphone into a virtual reality viewer.

For the purposes of this review, we selected two different virtual reality tours; (i) The Peacock Room, Washington DC, USA, and (ii) Dulwich Picture Gallery, London. We were keen to see how these could be used within museums in Cornwall, so we picked tours that presented a similar environment.

Equipment needed:

Instructions:

  1. First of all, you need to download the Google Cardboard App. This is free (see above).
  2. Open the Google Carboard App and follow the online instructions to link your phone to your Google Cardboard.
  3. Next, download the Google Arts and Culture App from your smartphone’s app store. This is free (see above).
  4. Open the app on your smartphone.
  5. Type in ‘Virtual Tour’ in the search bar in the top right-hand corner of the screen.
  6. Select which tour you wish to try from the search results.
  7. Follow the online instructions about inserting your phone into the Google Cardboard.
  8. As you are viewing the tour, you will see an ‘i’ within a circle. This symbol will light up as you hover over it. When the symbol is highlighted, press down the button on the top right of the Google Cardboard.
  9. Enjoy the tour!

Pros:

  • The main thing we liked about this was that the app was free to download and that the Google Cardboard was cheap to buy, meaning that it is more accessible to a wider audience
  • The experience was very immersive.
  • We both agreed that the Dulwich Picture Gallery tour was the better of the two, as it was more detailed and let you navigated around the different rooms within the
  • We were really impressed by the ‘i’ button that popped up on objects or buildings of interest. This provided optional information and interpretation that made this experience education, rather than just a fun virtual tour.

Cons:

We have separated this cons section into two to reflect the different tours that we tried:

Peacock Room Washington, USA

  • The focus was a bit blurred at times, meaning that our eyes got tired quite quickly.
  • The tour didn’t extend into the museum. You could explore the area outside the museum, but when you tried to go inside it just presented a series of painting and documents that could be clicked through.
  • We got lost! The tour had a bad ending and once we were inside the building and looking through the images, we couldn’t work out how to go back. This made the tour feel really disjointed.

Dulwich Picture Gallery

  • The only complaint that we had about this virtual tour was that we couldn’t zoom in on any of the paintings. This meant that while the overall immersive experience was excellent, we couldn’t look at specific items.

General Feedback:

Overall, we thoroughly enjoyed this immersive experience – so much so that we made some involuntary ‘oooh’ and ‘wow’ noises when we put the Google Cardboard on for the first time! We were glad that we tried out two different tours, as this revealed that not all virtual tours are created to the same standard. We much preferred the Dulwich Picture Gallery tour as it provided a much more immersive environment and made us want to visit so we could see the paintings up close.

Score:

  • Price: 5/5
  • Ease of use: 4/5
  • Educational benefit: 4/5
  • Fun: 4.5/5
Total: 17.5/20

 

Jenny Lee and Yiota Liopetriti