When Art History and Tech Collide

A beautiful woman taking a selfie.

Photo credit: Shutterstock

Have you seen the new craze? It’s all over Instagram and Facebook. People from around the world are using Google’s free museum app to find their art history doppelgängers!

Google’s Arts and Culture app has been around since 2016. Originally, the app let users browse an immense database of artwork images collected from museums worldwide. The app only recently went viral in a matter of weeks when last month’s update made it to users’ phones.

The gimmick became a fun combination of arts education and innovative tech, matching users’ “selfie” photos to the treasure trove of famous paintings.

The process is simple. Download the app, find the “is your portrait in a museum?” button link, upload a picture of your own face, and then let the app connect you to the famous and historical paintings that best resemble your likeness. Each portrait match lists a unique numerical similarity listed as a percentage, referencing how much the painting resembles the user’s unique facial features.

Facial recognition software has been around for a long time, but only recently has it become complex and detailed enough to match living people to works of art. In the past, facial recognition systems could only recognize faces directly facing a camera, and then only if the subject wore a neutral expression.

Whether this new success will lead to sustained interaction with Google’s Arts and Culture app is yet to be seen. We also can’t know if the technology served to significantly educate its users about art history. Nevertheless, the project was a success if measured squarely in engagement.

Social media feeds have been flooded with screenshots of doppelgänger art pieces, and they don’t seem to be letting up. It also may represent a new trend toward applying face recognition technology to a diverse array of campaigns and products. After all, who’d have thought facial recognition tech could make museum paintings go viral?

About Alex Holt

I am a local artist from Brooklyn, NY. I love art, design, books, photography, gardening and blogging.
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