Art and Augmented Reality: Expanding Cultural Experiences

Finding New Depth and Dimension in Artworks and Culture.

From phone apps to online experiences, art has expanded its impact from hanging silently on museum walls to full-blown augmented reality (AR) experiences. Art appreciation is being elevated to a whole new level thanks to the collaborative work between some of the world’s most prestigious museum collections and creative AR technologists. Art is becoming more accessible to everyone, everywhere, learning and interacting with artwork collections in ways never before imagined.

Beyond the painted canvas, this same technology is preserving humankind’s heritage and cultural history. Ancient manuscripts and books, historical sites and travel destinations, performances live and recorded, and so much more are being added to a virtual world for all posterity.

Here is just a sampling of free AR art offerings that both fascinate and educate. All that’s required is a yen to escape into a virtual world from the comfort of home.


Perfect for at home or in-person museum tours, Smartify is a popular personal digital curator app connecting people to art. Some of the world’s best museums have partnered with Smartify to engage museum audiences with digital guides and distance learning activities. Its database of more than two million artworks can be searched through or simply point your phone to an artwork to be recognized. More than just viewing pictures, you can instantly learn the stories behind the art. Included are curated audio tours of collections, and you can create your own personal collection.


Museums such as the Royal Academy of Art in London, Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York are seeing the benefit of the app. According to a Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery spokesperson, “We’re seeing that people spend more time in the galleries because the statistics tell us how it’s used. We’re finding that people are approaching the art more thoughtfully and more carefully.”

Smartify is funded by participating museums and through government grants. The app is also supported by offering in-app purchases, advertisements, and selling its data to art organizations. Exploring a world of arts and culture couldn’t be easier; just download the free app for iPhone or Android.


Google Arts & Culture

Tech giant Google’s ability to tap arts and culture is far-reaching with its Google Arts & Culture online platform. Started in 2011, as a nonprofit initiative, Google Arts & Culture works with cultural institutions and artists from all over the world. Its mission is to preserve the world’s art and culture online and make it available to anyone from anywhere.

Google Arts & Culture is accessible through its website or a downloadable app for Android or iPhone. Tour through collections of over 2,000 museums, art galleries, and cultural institutions. View high-resolution masterpieces like the Girl with a Pearl Earring and learn about hidden details with in-painting guided tours curated by experts. Google Arts & Culture takes you on a virtual tour of iconic landmarks, monuments, museums, and even behind-the-scenes sporting venues. Now you can visit places like the Palace of Versailles or catch a bird’s eye view from atop famous locations, venture inside renowned libraries and dramatic stages, peer into famous artist studios, and explore other destinations whenever you like, all for free.

Visit cultural heritage sites from across the globe and discover the history of Lebanon, Peru’s Machu Pichu, and prehistoric Stonehenge. Fast forward to modern times and go behind-the-scenes of science, such as exploring the underground spaces of CERN where atomic particles collide, the International Space Station, and the interior of the reconstructed Hindenburg. Viewing street art murals and sculptures from all around the world is a breeze.

You can even explore the latest experimental collaborations of Google Arts & Culture and creative coders. For example, explore the Chauvet Cave in France, known for some of the most ancient human art ever known, surviving undisturbed for 36,000 years. Get creative with Weird Cuts to assemble and arrange your own cutouts and make photo collages or assemblages in AR space. Or, take an incredible AV expedition through Kensington Gardens and Hyde Park with The Deep Listener, where imagination, ecology, and technology intertwine so you can see and hear species living in the park that might otherwise be invisible.

Then there are the books, ancient manuscripts, and author stories to delve into and draw inspiration. Learn how to craft a medieval manuscript and find out the importance of preserving first-of-their-kind books. Peer into the mind of Sir Isaac Newton from his own pen, or the oldest cookbook by an Asian woman, early documents of Martin Luther and the Reformation, and preserving oral folklore. On top of all that, Google Arts & Culture also accesses the Google Books library for endless reading enjoyment.

If you’re not in the mood to read, sit back and relax in a front-row seat to watch a ballet performance in 360° by the Paris National Opera — simply amazing. Enjoy scavenger hunts? Then you must go on a search and find mission at the Art Institute of Chicago. If fashion is your fascination, you can learn and view tours about what we wear and explore clothing, designers, textiles, history, and so much more.


Explore Your Artistic Talent

If you’d like to see your photos as works of art like Van Gogh, Claude Monet, Andy Warhol, or another famous artist would create it, use the Art Transfer feature of the Google Arts & Culture app. “Art Transfer doesn’t just blend the two things or simply overlay your image. Instead, it kicks off a unique algorithmic recreation of your photo inspired by the specific art style you have chosen,” according to Google.

Art Transfer

Find out which artworks look like you. Download Art Selfie by Google Arts & Culture for Android or iPhone, take a selfie, and then discover yourself in works of art! Want to exhibit a masterpiece in your home? Easy, use the Art Projector feature, and cast your favorite artwork to any wall.

Art Projector

More fun stuff you can do at home includes recreating works of art. Wouldn’t you like to pose and take a selfie as the Girl with a Pearl Earring?  Or how about trying your skills with a downloadable arts and culture activity book compiled by the Metropolitan Museum of Art and Rijksmuseum?

Art as Fun and Time Capsule

Clearly, there is much to learn about art, culture, heritage, history, and beyond. We can spend endless days exploring the vast knowledgebase that Google Arts & Culture is so carefully preserving for future generations. But if you think you’ll get lost in its ever-expanding offerings, you may be right.

You can enjoy smaller fun alternatives such as Smartify, or see how the Art Gallery of Ontario is bringing historical paintings to life through AR with ReBlink, or try AI Portraits and paint your portrait like a master artist. These and other apps and online platforms will help you explore artworks and cultures, keeping you entertained and engaged in our diverse world.


AI Portraits

Museums, cultural institutions, galleries, and artists continue to find ways to broaden the visibility of their collections using digital technology. From high-resolution imaging, audio tours, to virtual walk-throughs, there is much to immerse ourselves in from the comfort of our sofa. But keep in mind, what coders have made available to us now is just the tip of the iceberg, limited only by imagination.