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More than selfies: Google’s apps bring the world of art to your phone

The art of color: Paul Smith experiences Art Palette #GoogleArts

Google’s “art selfie” app, which helps you find a classic portrait that you most resemble, took social media by storm a few weeks back. Even celebrities got in on the fun. But Google’s commitment to bringing the world of art to a wider audience goes beyond just selfies, as shown by some new apps from its Arts & Culture Experiments division.

First up is Art Palette, which is all about color. It’s a search engine that finds and categorizes artworks based on the colors you choose. You can either upload a picture, or just play around with the different color combinations at the top of the screen. The algorithm uses machine learning to sift through thousands of images that match the color palette you uploaded.

It’s a great way to see how different colors look together and will likely give you some inspiration for adding some art to your own house or apartment.

Next is Life Tags, a collection of more than 40 million images from the iconic magazine. Life was like the Pinterest of the 20th century, a glossy full-sized magazine that ran from 1936 to 1972. The images captured in the pages of Life are a fascinating digital encyclopedia, and Google’s neural network uses a specialized photo search to categorize and tag the photos for browsing.

Each image has multiple labels associated with it, depending on what the Google annotation algorithm “sees” in the picture, and those associations can be viewed as dotted lines on the picture. This one’s a real rabbit hole — be prepared to spend several hours exploring a fascinating photographic history of the 20th century as you jump from astronauts to roller derbies to suspension bridges, and everything in between.

Both of these new apps can be found in the Arts & Culture Experiments section of Google’s site. Making art more accessible is the aim of the project, Amit Sood told the Telegraph. The Google Art project began with 17 museums and now includes 1,600.

“In the West we are so used to having these masterpieces and this cultural heritage on our doorstep,” he said. “But not every country will be able to build hundreds of physical structures and acquire hundreds of millions of artworks. It’s just not practical.”

“Museums have a role to make their spaces different,” he added. “I think this is not a problem, this is an opportunity, because you are changing the definition of the word ‘museum’ from it being a building.”

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Mark Austin
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