Google has built a virtual museum
The Californian search giant has launched a major overhaul for an unusual app: Google Arts & Culture.
Available on both iOS and Android, it contains images of art from thousands of artists, historical images and documents, and virtual tours of culturally significant locations around the world.
It's all thrown together in a kind of miscellany, with no obvious utilitarian purpose. Much like a traditional museum, in fact.
You can take a "virtual tour" (using Google's Street View tech) of the Sheikhupura Fort in Pakistan, read an article on the history of Brazilian music, or check out a gallery of the works of fifteenth-century painter Andrea Mantegna.
And it's now also compatible with Google Cardboard - the company's budget virtual reality headset. You can use it to wander around the Temple of Zeus in Greece, or check out street art in modern Rome.
It contains more than 65,000 paintings, nearly 8,000 photos, 19,000 clay objects, 7,000 sculptures, 202 mahogany objects, and four made out in cinnabar, among countless others.
One of the most interesting aspects of the app is its "Art Recognizer." It does what it says on the tin, and uses your smartphone's camera to recognise art at certain museums (just the Dulwich Picture Gallery in London, England, the Art Gallery of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia, and the National Gallery of Art in Washington DC, USA, for now) and then provide more information.
Google says it plans to bring this functionality to more museums as time goes on: "We're planning to roll this out to museums around the world-so stay tuned."
It also hints at our ever-more connected future - in which an supplementary digital layer will augment more and more of the real world with additional information and context that can be accessed when required.
Here's a link to the Google Play app store to download it for Android smartphones »
And here's a link to download it on iOS »
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