Sunday, January 24, 2021

Roam the Galleries of the Metropolitan Museum via Augmented Reality

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What if you could roam the galleries of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, learn about the artwork, and even play some trivia games, all from the comfort of your phone screen? That day has come thanks to a cutting-edge augmented reality (AR) experience launched yesterday, January 11, by the Met and Verizon.

All you have to do is visit the Met Unframed website and scan a barcode with your phone to enter an immersive, hyperrealistic version of the iconic museum. Online visitors can navigate through a dozen digitally rendered galleries and view nearly 50 works from the Met’s collection. Those who have access to Verizon’s 5G Ultra Wideband network will be able to unlock a feature that makes some of the artworks interactive.

Upon entering the website, visitors are welcomed to the museum’s Great Hall with a view of Kent Monkman’s diptych “mistikôsiwak: Wooden Boat People” (2019). From there, banners offer broad thematic concepts — Power, Home, Nature, and Journey — through which visitors can explore the galleries.

Highlights in the galleries include works by contemporary artists like El Anatsui, Mark Bradford, Ibrahim El-Salahi, Sam Gilliam, and Carmen Herrera. Viewers can also see paintings by Jacob Lawrence, Jackson Pollock, Vincent Van Gogh, Rembrandt, and others. What’s more, you can visit the Egyptian Wing’s Temple of Dendur and see the Unicorn Tapestries at the Met Cloisters from up close.

The AR website was designed in partnership with the production studio Unit9, drawing from the Met’s existing digital resources. For example, the studio’s 3D artists based their convincing renderings of the galleries and artworks on the Met’s vast collection of images, many of which are available for free use.

The featured games include trivia questions and riddles that encourage close observation of the artworks and labels. A game called “Analysis” uses the Met’s infrared and X-ray conservation scans of paintings to reveal underdrawings and other hidden details of well-known paintings.

With the coronavirus continuing to surge across the United States, the prospect of another city-wide lockdown in New York is not unthinkable. The Met Unframed prepares the museum for such a scenario while also providing far-off art lovers an opportunity to experience the museum’s galleries remotely.

“The Met Unframed brings the Museum to audiences wherever they are in an innovative viewing experience, in which users can virtually visit iconic spaces and engage with The Met’s masterpieces, learn more about the works in a playful way and through AR, and enjoy bringing the art into one’s own surroundings,” Met director Max Hollein said in a statement. “[It] expands the ways in which we can understand, experience, and appreciate art.”

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