Since 2011, Google's Cultural Institute project has amassed a massive virtual archive of artworks, artifacts, and treasures from over 1,100 museums across 70 countries, digitizing each item into an immersive historical catalog of global culture. If you didn't get a chance to download the companion Arts & Culture mobile app last year, the latest update is a good reason to start exploring.
The newly spruced-up Arts & Culture app has some impressive search functions — you can comb the collection by artist, object type, time, color, movement, or mediums. An already expansive selection of 360 virtual tours now includes 20 VR experiences (like a sidewalk view of street art in Rome), viewable with a Cardboard headset. Especially intriguing is an experimental feature called Art Recognizer, which can identify artworks and summon up information about them.
PRO The app works like a nifty data-driven curator, allowing you to (for instance) follow a color through the course of contemporary art, or swipe through time to watch the changing shape of modern sculpture — or the arc of an artist's ouevre.
CON For now, the app's coolest function (Art Recognizer) is limited to London's Dulwich Picture Gallery, Sydney's Art Gallery of New South Wales, and the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C. And while it can enhance your trip to just about any museum, it can't make the cafe any better.