Museum curators typically frown upon visitors touching paintings, sculptures, and artifacts, but not when those exhibits are displayed in augmented reality.
The latest AR exhibit from Google Arts & Culture not only lets you virtually touch the displays but also make your own audio art.
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The AR Synth web-based AR experience anchors replicas of up to five electronic music machines in your space simultaneously. Each virtual instrument includes a sequencer interface where you can add and remove notes or click the dice icon to create a randomized sequence.
The instruments featured in AR Synth include the Moog Memorymoog and ARP Odyssey synthesizers, the Roland CR78 drum machine, the Akai S900 floppy disk sampler, and the Fairlight CMI music station.
Google's AR experience is limited to mobile browsers on Android devices, since ARCore's flavor of web-based AR is not compatible with iOS. However, AR Synth is available as a non-AR 3D experience on Android, iOS, and desktop browsers.
The experiment is part of the Music, Makers, & Machines exhibit, an joint effort between Google Arts & Culture and YouTube to pay tribute to the history of electronic music.
"In the 126 years since, electronic music has evolved in similarly bold and ingenious ways, a testament to the magic that occurs when human beings build and interact with machines. We listen to it while working out, riding the subway, studying for exams — and hopefully soon again at the clubs and festivals that have made it what it is today," said Simon Rein, program manager for Google Arts & Culture, in a blog post. "We hope that Music, Makers & Machines will let you explore and appreciate the stories of electronic music and celebrate the creativity of its makers."
Currently, ARCore, Live View AR navigation in Google Maps, and AR content in Google Search are the crown jewels of Google's AR products and services, but the output from Google Arts & Culture is truly underrated in terms of creativity, immersion, and educational value.
The team's app for iOS and Android includes AR art galleries and virtual replicas of historic landmarks like Chauvet Cave in France and Nine Dome Mosque in Bangladesh. Google Arts & Culture has also branched out with standalone AR apps like Notable Women and Big Bang AR.
But AR Synth might be the most fun project that the team has created to date, particularly if you have musical bones in your body. The only thing it's missing is a record button.