The National Museum of Singapore is worth the visit no matter what time of year. However, now is as good a time as any with their latest endeavour. Teaming up with Google and app creator GuidiGo, you can explore the museum with AR. Not all of it mind, this is still a trial version of the software. However, if it garners a good amount of consumer interest it might well go. Naturally, VR Zone went down to check out the technology for ourselves. It’s not perfect, but it is definitely a fun experience and one of the best consumer level AR tours we’ve experienced.
Explore with Tango
Google’s Tango is a specially designed software and hardware made to enhance AR applications on Android devices. How it manages to do that has been explored in a previous article when we had a hands-on experience in Shanghai last July. There we were shown the Lenovo Phab 2 Pro, the first phone to use Tango. This is important to note because guess what devices we were handed to explore the museum with? It was essentially a bunch of smartphones attached to lanyards to prevent any damage by butter-fingered morons like yours truly. With 200 of these phones ready to be used, let’s hope that they are safely stowed away when not in use.
The tour itself was a great deal of fun. Part of the app functions like a map to direct you to points of interest. The part where Tango comes into its own however is when you can explore the virtual world while looking at the physical. From being able to walk around a scale model of the museum, even scaling the timeline to see how it looked when originally built, to seeing the famous Whale skeleton that has since been moved. We were only shown four points of interest out of the overall six. Guest can expect the AR tour to last around one hour. While you need to register, it’s completely free.
However, it is far from perfect. The setup time can take a while for it torecognise that you want to start your tour. Even worse, at certain points, the GPS completely failed and I was stuck with a loading screen. I knew how to fix it, but there were other journalists who needed constant help from staff. Furthermore, although you are using a smartphone, you can’t take screenshots. You can’t even take selfies with the AR overlay, which will be a serious concern for some museum goes.
Nonetheless, it’s an excellent use of AR technology and should be a definite draw for the museum. If it goes well, we might see other institutions in Singapore start giving it a serious look. Whether this means that AR catches on as a consumer product is another question entirely, however. It all depends on how well the Asus Zenfone AR fares when it launches later this year.