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Louvre exhibit becomes 'better with Kinect,' allows gesture scanning of ancient artwork

The Louvre has made a major push in incorporating technology and gaming hardware into its exhibits in recent years. Last spring, the massive museum began offering guided tours using the Nintendo 3DS, which offered touchscreen maps and audio explanations for each wing of the building. The Louvre's DNP Museum Lab explores high-tech methods of interacting with art, including augmented reality displays and multitouch interfacing.

Recently, the Xbox 360 Kinect peripheral was added to list of hardware which the Louvre weaves into its revered galleries.

Spotted by Mega64's Rocco Botte, who posted the video seen below on his personal YouTube channel, the Kinect in question is almost hidden from plain sight over one of the exhibits in the museum's recently opened space dedicated to Mediterranean antiquities. Tucked into a recessed ceiling tile, the Kinect would be nearly invisible if not for the glare off of its sensors, and its blinking green status light.

It is not a security measure for the exhibit over which it hangs — though you wouldn't be blamed for thinking it was.

The Louvre Museum communications officer Marion Benaiteau explained to Polygon that the Kinect is part of an exhibit titled "Spotlight on the Antinoe 'veil,'" an ancient fabric which depicts several scenes from Greek mythology.

"The Antinoe veil is a furnishing fabric dating from the 4th century AD," Benaiteau told Polygon. "It is decorated with scenes from the life of Dionysos, the son of Zeus and the mortal Semele. But this artwork is very delicate and quite difficult to read."

Using the Kinect, viewers are able to manipulate the fabric's unfinished artwork without touching it, allowing them to focus on the various narratives painted on the veil. They're able to do so thanks to high-definition videos which explore the veil's different narratives, which is projected in full HD over the veil itself.

"Each part of the veil can be explored: The childhood of Dionysos, the vegetal frieze, the Dionysiac procession," Benaiteau explained. "The visitor can also reach the original colour of the veil. The Kinect technology allows the museum to have this interaction without touch contact."

Unlike the Nintendo 3DS guided tours, which were a direct result of a partnership between The Louvre's curators and Nintendo, Microsoft had no input on the Kinect-integrated exhibit. When reached for comment about the Kinect's use in the Antinoe 'veil,' a Microsoft representative told Polygon that the company was not aware of the device's appearance in the Louvre.

"While we're not familiar with this particular Kinect for Windows application, Microsoft's industry partners continue to create innovative solutions and we're excited the Kinect for Windows technology continues to provide industry leaders with the tools to create and transform touch-free experiences," the representative said.

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