A new digital application delivers Guads, Strads, Guarneri and other fine fiddles to your smartphone or tablet
A violin lives in three-dimensions: light changes the experience as it reflects a violin’s seemingly endless curves—curly maple can look like rippled velvet under antique varnish. While nothing can compare with the actual experience—the “Wow!” factor—of holding a real Stradivari or Guarneri violin in your hands, photos are a great way to add to your understanding of what makes these instruments so special.

But, traditional photos have limitations.

Now, Weinrich Labs has introduced the Violin Gallery, an application for the iPad or iPhone that uses clever technology that fits somewhere between the still photos you’ve come to accept with expensive specialty books and the irreplaceable experience of holding some of the finest violins ever made.

For under a dollar, the Violin Gallery offers users dozens of photos, extensive histories of the violin and its maker, and sound samples of two instruments. Each month, one violin is replaced with a new instrument to experience. User interactivity is built-in as part of the experience, prompting users to swipe, pinch, and flick their way through the app to zoom into very high-resolution images of scrolls, f-holes, or entire body shots. With views of the full body or scroll, users can also rotate the violin 360-degrees, similar to the views some auction houses offer their online catalogs, though those are shown at a lower-resolution than the Violin Gallery.

But it’s what happens when you tilt your device that really makes this technology exciting. Open a photo of a violin’s back—the 1742 “Wieniawski” Guarneri del Gesù, for instance—and the flamed maple ripples. Weinrich Labs’ Alexander Sobolev calls it “the light reflectivity view” and it’s a great trick—one that almost makes you feel like you’re holding the real thing. Video of the effect doesn’t do justice to the feature, which is the closest thing I’ve seen to holding a genuine Strad.

Unless you’re Anne Akiko Meyers, or another famed steward of a rare stringed instrument, it’s not every day that you get to hang out with some of the world’s greatest violins. To cradle one of these beautiful antiques in your hand is inspiring and, well, real. It connects you to the past. For the rest of us, emerging technologies, like the Violin Gallery, can help bring these inspiring instruments a little closer.

View our video review of Violin Gallery on Youtube.com.

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