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Rembrandt Reality

Use your smartphone to travel to the year 1632 and step into Rembrandt’s painting ‘The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp’.

Place the gate and walk round in the Anatomical Theatre.

See through Rembrandt’s eyes how Doctor Tulp and his fellow doctors are examining the body of the criminal Aris Kindt. Discover all the stories behind the painting.

Developer description on Google play store

This amazing ARCore application for Android smartphones has been a pleasure of mine since discovering it over a year ago. It’s great to load it up every once in a while and enjoy the 6DoF environment in all its glory (it has a huge playspace).

Scanning the floor to create a ground plane

Best used outdoors in a quiet place, with good quality audio headphones. I use my Pixel 3aXL which has a good quality display, and sennheiser HD 461 headphones which provide some isolation from background noise. The application can be used with your phone display in portrait or landscape with auto rotation.

Placing the gate on the ground plane

The application boots up quickly and takes you through an introduction to the scenario and how to interact.

You then scan the floor to create a ground plane for the application to sit on, once ARCore has worked its magic a “gate” appears which can be placed precisely by tapping on your screen.

Initial appearance of the gate

Once the gate has been placed it materializes first as an archway with a stone finish, before opening the “gateway” into the Rembrandt environment.

An open invitation… what lies beyond?

You are then invited to walk through the gate, and this is where a genuine sense of physical space is generated from physically walking forward into a rich black backdrop, with the scene itself set further back from the entrance gate.

The anatomy lesson in progress

In front is the anatomy lesson of Dr. Tulp, and the surgeons keenly watching the dissection. I am able to walk forward another 5 metres before reaching the centre, the sense of scale is very impressive as it’s using 1:1 mapping.

With ARCore providing a solid geospatial anchor, I can freely walk around inside the environment, and get as close as I want with high quality assets showing rich detail in 6DoF.

The sense of presence is rewarding ‘despite’ this being presented on just a smartphone display rather than inside AR glasses.

During the experience, ‘hotspots’ can be clicked on which provide very useful insights into the original Rembrandt painting using images and audio description.

Up close and personal

Once you have selected the different hotspots you feel well informed, yet the real treat for me is always looking around the environment, with the ceiling a particular highlight – this is cleverly mentioned during one of the hotspot activated informationals.

Amazing ceiling with animated bird flying about

My other favourite element of this AR experience is exploring the boundaries of the environment and looking back through the entrance gate (to the “real world”) which causes a strong impression that you are inside the environment of the painting!

The participants appear to be taking note of the gate….

I haven’t calculated the available space inside the environment but it’s very large, I always finish by walking back through the gate.

The persistent nature of the application means that the gate straddling the boundary between the environment and real world can be carefully inspected, walked through, back through, the students and doctor remaining in place, a great example of a “Portal mechanic” in action.

Mind is blown by seeing the real world back through the gate! It’s fun to stand to one side and look around the thick edge of the gate out into the “real” street outside.

It’s always a pleasure to use Rembrandt Reality, the developers did a great job building this using ARCore. High quality experiences like Rembrandt Reality demonstrate the potential of augmented reality even on smartphones (I’d like AR glasses,but 2030?)

Rembrandt Reality is available as a free download on both the Google play store and Apple store (there is an ARkit build for Apple devices).

Thanks for reading! Rob Cole.