The world’s very first venue enabled with Google Tango is the Detroit Institute of Arts!

After much testing, Google finally created an onsite experience with Tango, its powerful indoor mapping technology and augmented reality platform. The tech recognizes features of a room, stitches together 3D maps and locates users in the mapped space, allowing them to interact with their environment on their phone, by adding digital artefacts like moving dinosaurs or furniture.

But Tango still needed to be implemented in a real-life venue. Continuing Google’s commitment to work with cultural institutions, the Detroit Institute of Arts now lets visitors request a Lenovo Phab 2 Pro (one of the two Tango-enabled smartphones existing to date) and see exhibits in a new light: in the archeology department, the smartphone rebuilds the murals behind statues, shows colors that were painted on wall thousands of years ago and x-rays sarcophagi to display the skeletons they contain.

Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg stated more than a year ago that VR and AR would be the next most engaging content after video. Although there have been engaging VR and AR experiences, none had provided a compelling experience that would truly augment the user’s environment thanks to something as simple as a smartphone. This is what the Detroit Institute of Arts achieve thanks to Google Tango: allow users to explore the exhibits by building an experience for which both the museum and the tech that we already carry in our pocket (let’s assume that more and more smartphones will be Tango-enabled) are essential.

Smartphones here are used to do much more than provide information as they do with many great museum apps, they immerse the visitor in the context of the artefacts… Maybe one day they will even do as much as recreated a whole AR moving scene that will be explorable on screen?

Of course, tech has already been used to reveal archeological artefacts as they used to be when they were built, like at the Met, when the Media Lab mapped the Temple of Dendur and used a projector to give it its colors back. But as augmented reality became truly mainstream last year thanks to Pokemon Go, it is fascinating to see how museums use it to experiment new features and how it can use museums to be tested. Google has signed partnerships with several other museums to implement Tango and we cannot wait to see what projects will be released next!