Despite the best efforts of the FBI, Boston’s Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum is still without some of the gems of its collection, stolen in one of the world’s most infamous art heists back in 1990. But if investigators have fallen short of recovering the works, a local tech company may have discovered the next best thing: using augmented reality to return the lost paintings to the museum—at least virtually.
In honor of the March 18 anniversary of the crime, Cuseum, a Boston-based start-up dedicated to using technology to enhance museum visitor experience, has unveiled “Hacking the Heist,” a new augmented reality app. The app’s conceit is simple: Just hold up your smartphone camera to the empty frames that still hang on the Gardner walls, and suddenly the paintings will appear, back where they belong at long last.
“As we started to work more extensively with Apple’s ARKit and augmented reality, one of my colleagues said ‘wouldn’t be interesting to put the stolen art back in the frames at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum?’” Cuseum founder and CEO Brendan Ciecko told artnet News. “When you visit the Gardner today, a lot of people don’t even realize that there was a heist, or don’t know what the artworks that were stolen looked like.”
He described “Hacking the Heist” as “mind-bending and mind-boggling. You’re literally looking through your screen and seeing things that aren’t there, and it’s not Pokémon Go and it’s not a video game—it’s culture, it’s art, something that has a deeper meaning.” Read more