National Museum of Singapore uses augmented reality to tell building's history

The Tango-enabled Architecture Tour of the National Museum of Singapore lets users learn more about the history of the building.
The Tango-enabled Architecture Tour of the National Museum of Singapore lets users learn more about the history of the building. PHOTO: NATIONAL MUSEUM OF SINGAPORE

Heard about the 42-feet-long Indian Fin Whale skeleton that used to be in the National Museum?

Now you can see it in the spot where it used to be displayed, with the help of augmented reality, which modifies a user's view of the real world.

The National Museum of Singapore is using Google's Tango technology to make the history of the iconic building come alive. Elements of virtual reality, which replaces the real world with a simulated one, will also be used.

Visitors are given a Tango-enabled Lenovo Phab 2 Pro phone, which will take them to six points of interest in the museum.

For example, when they stand under the glass passage on the second level of the museum, they will not only see the whale skeleton on their screen, but also what the whale might have looked and sounded like. They can even take selfies with it.

The whale skeleton used to be displayed there in the early 1900s, until it was returned to Malaysia in the 1970s.

Building on the museum's existing architectural tours, these hour-long tours will be launched on April 22, and are free. They are led by museum volunteers.

"The emergence of digital and future technology has opened many doors for museums worldwide and we now have the opportunity to redefine the conventional museum experience," says Angelita Teo, the museum's director.

She adds that the "enhanced architectural tours will enrich our visitors' experience of our stories and their connection to the past".

The project was undertaken by the museum to commemorate its 130th year. Opened in 1887, it was then called the Raffles Library and Museum.

This new endeavour was done in collaboration with Google and developer GuidiGo.

Google engineers spent six months taking detailed scans of every part of the museum, using Tango's area learning capabilities.

Visitors who take the tour will also get to see, on screen, what the museum's rotunda used to look like in the 1950s, with a marble bust of Sir Stamford Rafflesin the centre and patterned clay tiles on the floor instead of the current marble flooring.

This story has been updated for clarity.