Google Glass & the Modern Museum

This is astoundingly cool. The Independent recently reported on a group of Manchester Metropolitan University researchers that are working with Google Glass hardware to enhance a visitor's experience at museums and galleries. Much of the news about the wearable tech headgear that I've seen seems to circle around either Google's marketing of it as a revolutionary way to digitize one's life, the utter destruction of personal privacy, or occasional acknowledgements of how such devices could bring truly profound and actionable content to the education sector. This new project shows just how versatile this kind of device could be.

One of my biggest gripes in the art world is how inaccessible most of it seems. Museums do a fairly good job trying to open up their collections to visitors with information plaques and the like, but galleries can go so far as to not even display the title or artist for works on display. This forces visitors into the awkward situation of having to ask the gallery assistant about the piece which is unlikely to happen most of the time. Gallery workers can be exceedingly intimidating as they represent the esoteric, and sometimes elitist, art world and their main job is to get you to buy a piece. Few people relish in the chance to be either looked down upon for a lack of knowledge or to be sold something they don't have a desire to purchase.

Glass can change that. The researchers are working on software that can recognize an artwork through snapping a picture of it and then offer up a brief audio summary and visual or text information to further explore the work and the artist behind it. Think of the possibilities! Walk into a museum/gallery, rent a set of Google-Glass-based headgear (or download an app, if you have your own), and begin your immersive journey through the space. you will be able to effortlessly identify and explore every single work on display much like we already do with audio guides, but in a dynamic fashion. Images, audio, video, text – all of these mediums could be made available to you to enhance your experience.

You could even have contextual information based on your physical location within the museum. Consider a place like the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York or the British Museum in London. By having the software recognize which part/antenna of the museum's wifi network you're headset is connected to, it could throw a brief notification up in front of you notifying you that you've entered the Egyptology section and list the various sections you can explore before guiding you to your selection. You could also get a notification of recent renovations, travelling exhibits on display, and upcoming classes/events that apply to what you're looking at. Museums will finally feel like the future!

The absolute best part about all of this, if done well? You could always opt out of the experience and just explore a space in a  calm and traditional manner with the supplemental material of your choosing. It's the possibility of this new technological venture being offered as a choice that excites me. Regardless of your opinion of this new wave of wearable tech, projects like this reveal the true positive potential in just such an innovation.