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Thanks to Augmented Reality, London Galleries Take Its Art to the Street

A walking tour, sculpture trail, and outdoor installations are designed to encourage the public to engage again with the culture in the city.

The National Gallery has teamed up with the National Portrait Gallery, the Royal Academy of Arts, and other organizations to create the Augmented Gallery, an app-accessible interactive walking trail of 20 historic and contemporary pieces visible by smartphone.

The outdoor gallery route stretches across the city’s center, from west of Piccadilly Circus to east of Leicester Square, starting at the National Gallery and ending outside the Royal Academy.

When downloading the free app and scanning QR codes attached to exterior walls along the way, walkers can see and hear details about older oil paintings like Anthony van Dyck’s “Equestrian Portrait of Charles I” and Vincent van Gogh’s “Sunflowers,” or more contemporary pieces like Tracey Emin’s acrylic work “Trying to Find You.”

People would walk around on St. Martin’s Lane, outside the building that houses the English National Opera, and point their smartphones at multi-colored-patterned plaques hanging on the walls of the structure to learn more about different portraits, such as the so-called “Chandos Portrait” of Shakespeare. A trail of 20 frames uses augmented reality to unlock life-size masterpieces from London museums.

The British actor Stephen Mangan said in a news release that the Augmented Gallery was “such a great initiative that people can enjoy safely outdoors in the heart of London’s West End, and I hope it introduces these timeless classics and contemporary masterpieces to new audiences.”

The Augmented Gallery was part of a wider initiative to reposition London’s West End as an arts and culture destination; the normally bustling zone was eerily quiet during the darkest days of the pandemic in the city. The aim was that people will come to see the art, then stay for a meal or a show.

Thanks to Augmented Reality, art can be brought to life like nothing we have seen before. But that is not all it can do. Here at CaptivatAR, we have a wide range of use cases for AR and other XR technologies, so check us out and find what works for you!

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