CLEVELAND, August 1, 2017 -- Case Western Reserve University and New York-based Boulevard Arts today announced availability of a free new app in the Microsoft HoloLens store that enables virtual visits to London's Courtauld Gallery and the British Museum.
Users who don Microsoft's mixed-reality headset can see 18 works from The Courtauld and the British Museum--no matter where they are in the world, a joint announcement from Boulevard and CWRU said.
Boulevard Arts, Inc., an immersive art and culture platform, collaborated with the university on developing the app.
It is CWRU's second HoloLens offering after HoloAnatomy, issued last year with Cleveland Clinic.
Boulevard has eight arts and culture Virtual Reality experiences, viewable on the Samsung Gear VR and Oculus Rift with Touch Controllers, the announcement said.
"Boulevard was founded on the vision that we wanted to democratize access to art and culture," Co-Founder and CEO Elizabeth Reede said. "We want to offer people a way into these experiences so they can make them their own."
Reede, a former museum curator, realized that the mixed-reality perspectives available through Microsoft HoloLens could provide a way to bring people around the world closer to art, through technology, the announcement said.
At CWRU, Radiology Professor Mark Griswold, the faculty director for the university's HoloLens efforts and leader of the university's Interactive Commons, said he was excited to collaborate with Boulevard "because they have access to digital assets that no one else in the world has," the announcement said.
In addition to developing the HoloAnatomy app, CWRU's Interactive Commons team has assisted students on projects like a 3D map of campus buildings that highlights energy usage, and faculty on projects that include visualizing concepts in physics, the announcement said.
Viewers using the CWRU-Boulevard app with a HoloLens device can see holograms of paintings and historic objects, and other people, whether they are in the same physical space, or connected virtually, the announcement said.
"I may be looking at something completely different than another person in the app with me, but I can say, 'Come over here, take a look at this,' Reede said. "It allows you to feel as though you are there together and learning collaboratively."
Each of the 18 artworks in the app work is accompanied by an extended label and audio narration, the announcement said.
Neil Gaiman, author of "Norse Mythology" and other popular books, provides narration for The Courtauld Gallery objects, and Patricia Wheatley, Head of Broadcast for the British Museum, does the same for her institution.
CWRU Adjunct Art History Professor Holly Witchey, who tried the app, described in the announcement how she could enlarge paintings to see details invisible, or walk around pieces like the nearly nine-foot tall "Bust of Ramesses II," which itself sits on a base several feet high in the British Museum.
Describing Edouard Manet's iconic painting "A Bar at the Folies-Bergere," featuring a red-haired barmaid standing before a mirror,Witchey said: "You can see reflections in the pearl earrings she wears."