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Label: apps

Friday 09th September 2016Google Launches New Arts and Culture App

It's hard to be Google without having an incredible amount of information in your database. The whole function of what they do is based around having the best searchable index of information, after all. But what about information that doesn't exist as part of a webpage? 
 
As artists, we're well aware of the fact that there is just as much data in imagery as there is in text, but tagging and searching that data is a monumental task. Fortunately for us, Google has been working on this difficult problem for quite some time, and has built up an incredible database of cultural history under the admittedly less than creative name Google Arts and Culture. 
 
Aside from the slightly boring name, however, the tool itself is absolutely incredible. There is such a vast amount of information available that almost anything you could possibly want to find out about is there, whether it's a piece of contemporary modern art or something from the stone age.  
 
But even more impressively, the app doesn't just contain information about all of these cultural artifacts, but actually visit them within the app. When pairing your smartphone with a cheap virtual reality headset, you can walk past your favourite Banksy piece on the virtual street or visit a temple constructed in ancient Greece. 
 
Google has also partnered with a number of art galleries around the world to share museum data such as open hours and ongoing exhibits, as well as log their current collections as part of a database. Opening the app while actually in one of the museums and scanning the piece you're standing in front of with your phone will allow you to pull up a huge amount of information about it. 
 
Unfortunately, only three museums are currently participating in the program, but naturally this is likely to increase dramatically once word of the app gets out to curators. It would certainly be most advantageous for them to work with Google rather than developing their own unique augmented reality apps and experiences. 
 
The three museums that are currently participating are the Dulwich Picture Gallery in London, the Art Gallery of New South Wales in Sydney, and the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC.
 
Probably the most interesting aspects of the project is the way you can sort the results of your own searches. This allows you a variety of ways to look at the progression of art history, from how cats have been represented since ancient Egypt or the relative impacts of various seminal pieces in a specific genre or movement. 
 
The app is available for Android and iOS, or you can visit the website itself at https://www.google.com/culturalinstitute/beta/
 
 
 
 

Posted on September 09th 2016 on 08:09pm
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Wednesday 11th May 2016The New Gallery Experience

The modern gallery experience began with the advent of the self-guided tour. It eventually progressed to a podcast that you could download to your iPod, and then eventually to the ultra-modern app-based experience that is still the leading choice for the forward-thinking gallery. Now that's all changed.

Perhaps it shouldn't be surprising that the next wave of art appreciation would arrive from California. The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA to those in the know, whatever that means) has recently unveiled it's newest digital approach to the guided tour.

Naturally, it's based in an app for your smartphone, but instead of simply guiding you through the space, they've taken it one step further. Thanks to the advanced location technology that is standard in almost every smartphone on today's market, the museum can pinpoint your location within the space and provide you with commentary related to the piece that you're looking at.

SFMOMA has partnered with Apple, who created a high-resolution map of the museum space that enables their technology to pinpoint your location precisely, and play you the appropriate element of the tour without having to enter any codes or mess with your phone at all.

The voice of a veteran radio announcer is the first thing you hear upon loading the app, with a hilarious and reassuring message: “The guides will tell you where to go. They’ll wait for you, because they know where you are too. *pause* Oh, that sounds creepy—it’s not.”

They've taken it one step further, though, providing a number of different and sometimes wildly contrasting tour guides, sort of in the same way that you can download the voice of Homer Simpson for your car's GPS navigator. Homer has yet to make an appearance in the SFMoMA guide app, but it may just be a matter of time.

Instead, you can listen to actors from the popular HBO show Silicon Valley discussing your pieces, or perhaps the French tightrope walker Philippe Petit analyzing the balanace of light against brushstrokes.

No matter how you choose to interact with museums, this is surely going to change your perspective. Personally, this writer prefers to be dropped in at the deep-end to experience things without the benefit of a guide, but perhaps the best balance would be to work ones way through the museum as deep as possible and only then to enable the app, so it can act as a guiding light out from the darkness.

Posted on May 11th 2016 on 06:46pm
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Wednesday 02nd March 2016Robot Artists

Another week goes by, and another story trumpeting robotic artwork comes to supposedly dazzle us. Recently we discussed the Instapainting robot that drew based on a collaborative Twitch stream, and techies across the net were fascinated by the interplay. It was fairly interesting, of course, but as a collaborative art project rather than as a dire warning that robots are soon going to be replacing human artists.

This week, we bring to your attention a robot created by Google's Creative Lab that is able to create a pencil line drawing of a photographic portrait taken by a phone camera. It's an interestingly quirky piece of tech, but hardly something that can really be called an artist, despite what the gadget-hungry internet would like you to believe.

The robot is really just a Nexus 6P smartphone attached to a device known as a IOIO (yo yo) that enables it to move a pencil up and down the canvas by contracting and releasing two cables. But all of the interpretive work, in other words all the elements that actually make up a portrait, are handled by the application that converts your photo into an on-screen line drawing. While it might have a chance at replacing a boardwalk caricature artist on sheer novelty alone, it hardly seems likely that it will ever create something that will hang on a gallery wall.

But that's not to say that it's the last word on the potential of robot artists.

As artificial intelligence becomes one of the hottest areas of scientific research thanks to some actual, tangible leaps forwards in the field (think IBM's Watson winning at Jeopardy or Google's Deepmind AlphaGo beating the world's best Go player in 4 out of 5 matches), we may actually begin to see some true attempts to create an artificial artist. Many people around the world are concerned about robots replacing them in their field - McDonalds fast food workers, for example - but is this really going to ever be a concern for the art world?

Perhaps the better question is what will happen to the creative arts in a world where menial labour is all handled by machine intelligences, leaving us with a glorious excess of free time to work on whatever may catch our fancy.
 

Posted on March 02nd 2016 on 04:37am
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