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This App Puts a Museum in Your Phone

Get out and get some culture with a newly released app that gives art a smart spin

smithsonian.com

How artsy is your phone? No, not your collection of selfies and “Pokemon Go” snaps—the kind of art you might find in a museum or at an ancient historical site. A new app has the goal of making the device you rely on a very artistic place indeed, reports FastCoDesign’s John Brownlee—Google just released an app that puts the equivalent of the world’s most amazing museum in your phone.

The Google Arts and Culture app was created by the search engine giant to bring together culture from more than 1,000 museums across 70 countries into a smartphone app that puts a new face on art and history. On the company’s official blog, Google writes that the app, which was created by the Google Cultural Institute, lets users search for objects and colors, scroll through art by time period, browse pieces by color, thumb through stories and find opening times and highlights from museums all over the world. The app also supports virtual reality to bring virtual tours of cultural sites and art museums to life.

The app, which is accompanied by a redesigned website, seeks to make art and culture easy and intuitive to browse. Whether you choose to discover art by artist, time period, medium, place or even color, it may help you see old favorites and new discoveries in an entirely new way.

One of its coolest features is the ability to get up close and personal with masterpieces, scrolling in to view tiny details and textures. As Sarah Perez writes for TechCrunch, its Art Recognizer feature, which can be used inside specific museums like the Freer and Sackler Galleries​, is like the Shazam of art apps. Just point it at a piece of art you don’t recognize or want to remember, and Google will use your camera’s phone to identify the work and give you the scoop on the piece.

Just how good is the app, which is available for both Android and iOS? While Brownlee raves about its features, ArtNet’s Ben Davis is skeptical. He writes that the app “feels a bit like a palatial new trophy museum that you slowly realize was built by robots.” Is a search engine-like approach to the world’s cultural treasures brilliant or sterile? There’s only one way to find out—go see them for yourself. Hey, the museums you discover might even end up being Pokestops.

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