Will Google Glass Do Away With Museum Wall Text and Audio Guides?

For all the flak that Google Glass users (sometimes referred to as “Glassholes”) get, there are some undeniably practical uses for the technology, one of which may be to aid in viewing art. The Independent reports that a team from Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU) is conducting research on how the wearable computers can be utilized to display information about artworks as visitors explore a museum, replacing the need for wall labels, guidebooks, and audio guides. After all, who hasn’t had the frustrating experience of attending a popular exhibition, only to find that it’s impossible to get within viewing range of the labels and information?

The way it works is simple. The wearer uses the Glass to take a picture of the painting they are viewing, the Glass recognizes it, and populates its display with the information that would typically be available on a wall label. The MMU team also hopes the Glass could eventually be used to generate recommendations for other pieces in the museum or gallery that the user might like to visit based on the artists, periods, and media they have already viewed. And, naturally, there is the opportunity for a social media component, whereby users share recommendations with friends.

Dr. Timothy Jung of MMU told the Independent, “If you’re looking at a guidebook or even your phone, that creates a barrier between you and the art—it makes it harder for you to engage… using Glass in this way removes that barrier, you can engage directly with the artworks and have access to the background information.” The university plans to continue testing with the Glass, using a combination of tech-savvy volunteers sourced from Twitter and everyday museum-goers as guinea pigs. They are also exploring how well the Glass will work with sculptures and other three-dimensional artworks.

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