With Google’s recent suspension of its smart glasses from public sale, the face gadget has been widely perceived as broken. To the contrary: The eyewear is popping up at cultural institutions around the globe. “The project is not dead—trust me,” says David Lerman, CEO of software developer GuidiGo, which sees increasing demand for its Google Glass culture tours. “We have the full support of the Glass team. We continue to buy pairs of glasses.”
At Paris’s fittingly glass-vaulted Grand Palais, gallery-goers can borrow the tech specs to take in masterworks by the Golden Age Spanish painter Diego Velázquez through mid-July.
Prepped by a two-minute Glass tutorial, exhibition viewers can hone their focus on, say, Velázquez’s stately image of Pope Innocent X (1650) until a target-like symbol surfaces on the lens, then tap the button on the temple and watch Francis Bacon’s 20th century reworkings of the papal portrait appear for side-by-side comparison. Throughout the audio narrative, pictorial elements are spotlighted with visual cues, as with one landscape where scenes of Saint Anthony encountering a centaur and a horned, goat-footed monster are “hardly visible to the naked eye,” notes Agnès Alfandari of Espro Acoustiguide Group, the content designer of the Velázquez guide, “but wearers can inspect them, thanks to close-up details displayed on the Glass screen.”
Glass wearers experienced a similar aha moment at Keith Haring: The Political Line, recently at the De Young Museum, in San Francisco, when they saw the artist’s iconic baby emerge from the dense, chaotic imagery in The Last Rainforest with the aid of animation. Photos of Haring at work in subway stations punctuated audio accounts of train riders who saw his graffiti on their commutes. Tapping the glasses, viewers watched a CBS newsreel of Haring apprehended by police for defacing public property. “As the artist was arrested on-screen, the visitor was immersed in the same moment, almost like a time-traveler,” says Christine Murray of Antenna International, which scripted the Haring guide. “When the video finished, visitors were faced with the evidence— the graffiti drawings hanging around them on the gallery walls.”
Hotels are getting in on it, too. The Sofitel Budapest Chain Bridge just started lending the eyewear to guests to use as they wander the Hungarian capital. Velázquez is on through July 13 at Grand Palais, 3 Ave. du Général Eisenhower, Paris; grandpalais.fr.