Google Arts & Culture Experiments

Artists, museums, cultural institutions have always been inspired by technology, and tech companies have always been inspired by art and culture. Google Arts and Culture is a platform whose first mission is to help cultural institutions to share their collection and to reach new audiences. The Lab is a place for research and development. We are working on some emerging technologies and how they can be useful for arts and culture online. It’s the case for virtual reality for example, it’s the case also for machine learning. Machine learning enables us to find patterns in complex data that hopefully open up new pathways to explore it. Machine learning is incredibly valuable because it brings these unexpected ways to look at the content, to make it available, to connect the audience to the content or to even help museums to organise and analyse their content. The machine learning experiments were created here at the Lab by creative coders and artists. X Degrees of Separation tries to answer the question: “What is the connection between any two artworks?” You just ask it: “What is the path between Starry Night and some 5,000 year old clay sculpture?” and it actually finds a connection which is usually surprising, interesting, and opens up this chance for discovery. Tags uses a neural network that automatically applies text labels to image pixels. It uses picture recognition to sort the artworks by keywords, so you can search for something that is within a picture in a novel way. It can suggest artworks that it thinks are “calm” or “sad”… It brings a new way to browse cultural heritage. The way t-SNE map works is that all the artworks are organised in this map by visual similarity alone. It’s a 3D landscape where you can navigate in a world made of artworks. So it’s a way to visualise artworks that look similar, to discover maybe new connections between these artworks. As an artist, I am fascinated by the fact that something I thought impossible one year ago is now quite easy to do. We are just at the beginning, there will be much more to come. We see artists getting extremely excited, we are extremely excited, we will see what happens but it’s a great moment for art and technology.

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