philip lelyveld The world of entertainment technology


Virtual Reality Lets Rare Works of Art Take a Field Trip

merlin_133468382_d137d38e-5088-45b1-8c41-b45d3e4dd075-master675 merlin_133468391_e8e4a31d-efa0-4e56-b5f2-3cf051753b1c-master768AMSTERDAM — This museum is floating in outer space.

In front of you, there is a line of stunning European old master paintings to observe and explore. Behind you is a sleek walkway over the infinite void of sky and stars. If you were to take a running leap, you’d fly out into nothingness and never stop.

The Dutch art collectors George and Ilone Kremer decided to combine these two developments: They’ve reproduced 74 artworks from their own stellar art collection, to create a traditional museum experience using video-game technologies and a 21st-century twist.

This month and next, the Kremer Museum is rolling out its first mobile app, which will allow people worldwide to visit a virtual museum using any Google Daydream-ready phone and virtual reality headset, simply by placing the smartphone sideways into the headset and turning it on. The app is free, and through a program they’ve also created called Mighty Masters, the Kremers plan to donate smartphones and virtual reality helmets to selected schools, beginning in India with the help of the Delivering Change Foundation.

The idea for a virtual-reality museum came from their son Joël, who had worked in the United States for Google. Joël eventually became the director of the museum and spearheaded the project.

Each painting in the collection was photographed about 3,000 times and then merged into a 3-D image using photogrammetry, or measurements of surface points. Visitors to the museum can therefore look not only at the front of a picture, but also walk around and see labels and other markings on the back.

Glitches still need to be worked out. The image resolution still appears to be inadequate to create a sufficiently high-resolution reproduction.

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