In virtual reality (VR) there are plenty of ways to enjoy art, with apps and experiences like the Smithsonian American Art Museum’s (SAAM) No Spectators: The Art of Burning Man on VR social platform Sansar, or how about Dreams of Dali for HTC Vive and Oculus Rift. Augmented reality (AR) on the other hand has been slow to catch up. Google is changing that this week with a new AR feature for its Arts & Culture app.


To mark the launch of its AR feature Pocket Gallery on the app Google and the Mauritshuis museum have curated all 36 of Dutch painter Johannes Vermeer’s works in one place for the first time. Vermeer’s masterpieces are scattered across 17 collections in seven countries with some now too fragile to travel, so there’s never going to be a possibility of seeing them together physically.


Pocket Gallery creates an AR exhibition that viewers can dive into to view paintings like the famous “Girl with a Pearl Earring” and the missing masterpiece “The Concert” which was stolen from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston 28 years ago. Shown lifesized, viewers can enjoy guided insights into the artworks and learn about his art through several expert stories.


The Google Arts & Culture app is available for iOS and Android, although you’ll need a compatible smartphone which supports either ARKit or ARCore to make use of the AR Pocket Gallery feature.


In a Google blog posting the company also notes that: “You can experience Vermeer’s work in a variety of formats—whether it’s an interactive coloring book on Instagram or an original series with YouTube Creators. To see Vermeer’s paintings hanging where they currently are, you can also check out Street View photography in galleries worldwide to navigate the halls of the Frick Collection (New York) and Rijksmuseum (Amsterdam).”


Augmented Reality can contribute a lot to museums. This technology increases the feeling of presence (one of the fields that are studied by the Thematic Area 4 of the ViMM project, alongside with the Storytelling and Gamification fields), by providing the users with partial immersion since they still have access to the real world. This is a very exciting feature that could make the museum experience more fun and interesting thus attracting more people to museums.