Jul 6th 2017

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