Bringing the past to life: Google Tango AR at Queen’s House

Queen’s House is the first museum in the UK to use Google’s breakthrough augmented reality technology Tango and through hand held devices has created Spirited: A digital adventure. Here Advisor speaks with Dr Fabrice Jouvenot, Royal Museums Greenwich who will be giving a talk tomorrow (May 18) at the Museum’s + Heritage Show on this new way to engage visitors ahead of its official launch next month

When Queen’s House reopened in October last year following a 15-month refurbishment its art and architecture had been restored, new exhibitions and commissions unveiled and the Armada Portrait of Queen Elizabeth I, saved for the nation earlier this year, taking pride of place.

Not only was the 400-year-old building, designed by Inigo Jones, brought back to its former glory but he and other historic characters were also brought back to life in a new interpretation project using the latest augmented reality (AR) technology to bring back to life characters associated with the house including the architect himself. Spirited: A digital adventure is a ground-breaking AR experience that allows history to come alive in visitors’ hands.

“We have three main goals: first we are targeting an audience not usually associated with visiting historic buildings that want to use new technology; secondly, we are revealing part of the history that is not in the narrative or interpretation of Queen’s House focusing on the story of the building through the different characters. And thirdly using this room as different way of engaging visitors from the others,” says Jouvenot. “We chose Tango because we have an historic building and we didn’t want to take anything away from that. It is also a way of being one step ahead and not two steps behind.

In his talk Jouvenot will be able to reveal how the Spirited project with Tango has engaged with visitors since its pilot launch on March 1 through visitor statistics and feedback.

Project Tango technology gives any mobile device the ability to navigate the physical world in a similar way to humans. The Queen’s House is one of the world’s first cultural places to trial this revolutionary technology alongside the Detroit Museum of Art, USA and the Art Science Museum, Singapore.

As part of the experience, users will discover 21 historical characters and the original Gentileschi painting on the ceiling. The list of spirits in the Great Hall includes: Anne of Denmark, Henrietta-Maria of France and Inigo Jones.

All characters are real models wearing historical costumes, props, jewels, wigs and make-up and they are using the Lenovo Phab2Pro phablets. All devices are in a charging deck handed to visitors by trained museum staff.

“This big advantage of this kind of augmented reality technology is you do not need any pattern recognition, Bluetooth, or wifi, it detects what is around and they can create AR all the time. The great hall is a big empty building and we have filled it with these spirits.”

Dr Fabrice Jouvenot, Royal Museums Greenwich will be giving a talk tomorrow (May 18) at 1pm in the New Technology theatre at the Museums + Heritage Show.