Biennale Arte 2015 Liquid Galaxy Installation
By Brian Zenone
November 5, 2015
If there is anyone who doesn’t know about the incredible collections of art that the Google Cultural Institute has put together, I would urge them to visit google.com/culturalinstitute and be overwhelmed by their indoor and outdoor Street View tours of some of the world’s greatest museums. Along these same lines, the Cultural Institute recently finished doing a Street View capture of the interior of 70 pavilions representing 80 countries of the Biennale Arte 2015, in Venice, Italy. We, at End Point, were lucky enough to be asked to come along for the ride: Google decided that not only would this Street View version of the Biennale be added to the Cultural Institute’s collection, but that they would install a Liquid Galaxy at the Biennale headquarters, at Ca’ Giustinian on the Grand Canal, where visitors can actually use the Liquid Galaxy to navigate through the installations. Since the pavilions close in November 2015, and the Galaxy is slated to remain open until the end of January 2016, this will permit art lovers who missed the Biennale to experience it in a way that is astoundingly firsthand.
End Point basically faced two challenges during the Liquid Galaxy Installations for the Cultural Institute. The first challenge was to develop a custom touch screen that would allow users to easily navigate/choose among the many pavilions. Additionally, wanting to mirror the way the Google Cultural Institute presents content, both online, as well as on the wall at their Paris office, we decided to add a swipe-able thumbnail runway to the touch screen map which would appear once a given pavilion was chosen.
As we took on this project, it became evident to our R&D team that ordinary Street View wasn’t really the ideal platform for indoor pavilion navigation because of the sheer size and scope of the pavilions. For this reason, our team decided that a ROS-based spherical Street View would provide a much smoother navigating experience. The new Street View viewer draws Street View tiles inside a WebGL sphere. This is a dramatic performance and visual enhancement over the old Maps API based viewer, and can now support spherical projection, hardware acceleration, and seamless panning. For a user in the multi-screen Liquid Galaxy setting, this means, for the first time, being able to roll the view vertically as well as horizontally, and zoom in and out, with dramatically improved frame rates. The result was such a success that we will be rolling out this new Street View to our entire fleet.
The event itself consisted of two parts: at noon, Luisella Mazza, Google’s Head of Country Operations at the Cultural Institute, gave a presentation to the international press; as a result, we have already seen coverage emerge in ANSA, Arte.it, and more. This was followed by a 6PM closed door presentation to the Aspen Institute.
Using the Liquid Galaxy and other supports from the exhibition, Luisella spoke at length about the role of culture in what Google refers to as the “digital transformation”.
The Aspen Institute is very engaged with these questions of “whitherto”, and Luisella’s presentation was followed by a long, and lively, round table discussion on the subject.
We were challenged to do something cool here and we came through in a big way: our touchscreen design and functionality are the stuff of real creative agency work, and meeting the technical challenge of making Street View perform in a new and enhanced way not only made for one very happy client, but is the kind of technical breakthrough that we all dream of. And how great that we got to do it all in Venice and be at the center of the action!