Google’s Free App Analyzes Your Selfie and Then Finds Your Doppelganger in Museum Portraits

Having the ability to virtually explore the history, back stories, and cultural significance of artworks from over a thousand museums generates nowhere near the excitement as a feature allowing users to upload selfies in hopes of locating an Instagram-worthy doppelgänger somewhere in this vast digital collection.

On the other hand, if this low-brow innovation leads great hordes of millennials and iGen-ers to cross the thresholds of museums in over 70 countries, who are we to criticize?




So what if their primary motivation is snapping another selfie with their Flemish Renaissance twin? As long as one or two develop a passion for art, or a particular museum, artist, or period, we’re good.

Alas, some disgruntled users (probably Gen X-ers and Baby Boomers) are giving the Google Arts & Culture app (iPhone-Android) one-star reviews, based on their inability to find the only feature for which they downloaded it.

Allow us to walk you through.

After installing the app (iPhone-Android) on your phone or tablet, scroll down the homepage to the question “Is your portrait in a museum?”

The sampling of artworks framing this question suggest that the answer may be yes, regardless of your race, though one need not be a Guerilla Girl to wonder if Caucasian users are drawing their matches from a far larger pool than users of color…

Click “get started.” (You’ll have to allow the app to access your device’s camera.)

Take a selfie. (I suppose you could hedge your bets by switching the camera to front-facing orientation and aiming it at a pleasing pre-existing headshot.)

The app will immediately analyze the selfie, and within seconds, boom! Say hello to your five closest matches.

In the name of science, I subjected myself to this process, grinning as if I was sitting for my fourth grade school picture. I and received the following results, none of them higher than 47%:

Victorio C. Edades’ Mother and Daughter (flatteringly, I was pegged as the daughter, though at 52, the resemblance to the mother is a far truer match.)

Gustave Courbet’s Jo, la Belle Irlandaise (Say what? She’s got long red hair and skin like Snow White!)

Henry Inman’s portrait of President Martin Van Buren’s daughter-in-law and defacto White House hostess, Angelica Singleton Van Buren (Well, she looks ….congenial. I do enjoy parties…)

 and Sir Anthony van Dyck’s post-mortem painting of Venetia, Lady Digby, on her Deathbed (Um…)

Hoping that a different pose might yield a higher match I channeled artist Nina Katchadourian, and adopted a more painterly pose, unsmiling, head cocked, one hand lyrically resting on my breastbone… for good measure, I moved away from the window. This time I got:

Joseph Stella’s Boy with a Bagpipe (Maybe this wasn’t such a hot idea with regard to my self-image?)

Cipriano Efsio Oppo Portrait of Isabella (See above.)

Adolph Tidemand’s Portrait of Guro Silversdatter Travendal (Is this universe telling me it’s Babushka Time?)

Johannes Christiann Janson’s A Woman Cutting Bread (aka Renounce All Vanity Time?)

and Anders Zorn’s Madonna (This is where the mean cheerleader leaps out of the bathroom stall and calls me the horse from Guernica, right?)

Mercifully, none of these results topped the 50% mark, nor did any of the experiments I conducted using selfies of my teenage son (whose 4th closest match had a long white beard).

Perhaps there are still a few bugs to work out?

If you’re tempted to give Google Arts and Culture’s experimental portrait feature a go, please let us know how it worked out by posting a comment below. Maybe we're twins, I mean, triplets!

If such folderol is beneath you, please avail yourself of the app’s original features:

  • Zoom Views - Experience every detail of the world’s greatest treasures
  • Virtual Reality - Grab your Google Cardboard viewer and immerse yourself in arts and culture
  • Browse by time and color - Explore artworks by filtering them by color or time period
  • Virtual tours - Step inside the most famous museums in the world and visit iconic landmarks
  • Personal collection - Save your favorite artworks and share your collections with friends
  • Nearby - Find museums and cultural events around you
  • Exhibits - Take guided tours curated by experts
  • Daily digest - Learn something new every time you open the app
  • Art Recognizer - Learn more about artworks at select museums by pointing your device camera at them, even when offline
  • Notifications - subscribe to receive updates on the top arts & culture stories

Download Google Arts and Culture or update to Version 6.0.17 here (for Mac) or here (for Android).

Note: We're getting reports that the app doesn't seem to be available in every geographical location. If it's not available where you live, we apologize in advance.

via Good Housekeeping

Related Content:

Google Gives You a 360° View of the Performing Arts, From the Royal Shakespeare Company to the Paris Opera Ballet

Google Art Project Expands, Bringing 30,000 Works of Art from 151 Museums to the Web

Google Creates a Digital Archive of World Fashion: Features 30,000 Images, Covering 3,000 Years of Fashion History

Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  Follow her @AyunHalliday.


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Comments (56)
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  • 123 says:

    I do not see “Is your portrait in a museum?” when I scroll down on the homepage. In the Google Play Store, it says you can “Take a selfie and discover if your portrait is in a museum” – but it then qualifies with “(Select locations only)”. I must not be in a location that supports this functionality.

  • Steve says:

    Tried myself (UK-based) and had same problem. VPN-ed to appear to be in the US and it appears in the app.

  • Oslo TheFrax says:

    the same here

  • Angel says:

    yes, i do not have that option available either. What a shame.

  • Irfon-Kim Ahmad says:

    I also don’t see the option, in Canada.

  • Jack says:

    I am not a millennial, and don’t see the option either, and I’m in the US. Cool app nonetheless, but this feature seems not to exist.

  • Vanessa Thomas says:

    I’m in the US. I don’t see “Is your portrait in a museum?” anywhere. No instructions in the app at all. I took a selfie and still nothing. I wish it would have a way to see where the actual available areas are or get a notifications saying I’m not in an area before it wastes more of my time.

  • luca says:

    Italiani: non perdete tempo neppure voi. :)

  • Mary Capps says:

    Bloody hell – you mention people having problems finding this feature and then give instructions that are non-existent in the app. Does anyone do quality control anymore?

  • Chris says:

    In US.
    Feature does not exist for me either.

  • Karely Munarriz says:

    Hi! I’m in Mexico and I can’t have the access to the feauture. Someone could in Mexico?
    Thanks!

  • LP says:

    I scrolled many times and couldn’t find this feature. I’m in the U.S. I also searched in multiple spots on the app, opened all the stories, etc. and didn’t find. I think this is not just a millennial or Gen- X problem, but any chance to take a dig at us, right?

  • Sdt says:

    In Canada. No feature in the app. Whats going on Mr Google?

  • L. says:

    I’m in Canada and I can’t find the feature anywhere either. I wouldn’t have downloaded the app if I knew it wouldn’t be available, ugh.

  • Tu says:

    The selfie feature seems to be available on iPhone only and in select locations.

  • Hollyanna says:

    I found the app with my iPhone. I searched “google museum” in the app store. This article didn’t spell it out for you – but you don’t REALLY need it spelled out for you do you? My daughter and I laughed so hard at the results of this. Awesome. Thanks Open Culture. And thank you for not making it too easy.

  • Kompani101 says:

    Do not have that option on my Android tablet :(

  • Blender Sushi Guy says:

    Yeah, the app “Match Portrait with ART feature” does not show up here in Australia. I think the Article needs to be updated. Kind of disappointing. May try again tomorrow, but I might forget.

  • Can Kulahcioglu says:

    I’m in Smyrna/Turkey and not working here.. (i am using an iphone7)

  • S says:

    I had no problem at all finding the Google Arts and Culture app.

    But apparently the selfie part of the app is not available when using an Android phone in Canada.
    Glad you have that option, but I don’t.

  • Sam says:

    Click Bait no doubt Hate Google and all that you are

  • Robinson Ricci says:

    Same here. I’m from Brazil and would like to try “Is your portrait in a museum”, but couldn’t find it! Is it possible for a brazilian (living in Brazil, obviously)???

    Can you help me???

    Anyway, it’s a very interesting app!

  • Karin says:

    Helloooooo person who wrote this story… Are you reading these responses? Could you maybe clarify? Or apologize for wasting everyone’s time?

  • James Hastings-Trew says:

    No such feature in the iPhone app here in Canada.

  • Mike says:

    It’s amusing that the young content producer who wrote this article takes a condescending dig at Gen X-ers and Baby Boomers, but is completely misinformed of the availability of this feature within the app.

  • Derek says:

    Yep – definitely not in the app in Canada.

  • Max says:

    In Russia and no feature in the app.

  • Joan says:

    iPhone user in Denver – the app worked fabulous for me, and it’s cracking me up…thanks so much Open Culture for always sending interesting and mind blowing things our way!

  • manowce says:

    people are saying they don’t have the feature WITHIN the app, not that they can’t find the app itself you stupid cow.

  • Patty says:

    Millennial in Brooklyn who downloaded and this feature doesn’t show up. 🙄Lame.

  • MR says:

    Android user in the US. I have the feature in my app. Got to it the same way writer described, via the home page.

  • Nelly says:

    Italia : not available. What a shame .

  • Courtney says:

    Download the Flow VPN app. We did that and selected Northeast US Server and the option popped up on the homepage! Good luck!

  • Marissa Turner says:

    I look forward to exploring all the features and usurping your “folderol” phrase.

  • Isidora Mansilla says:

    Chile: “is your portrait in a museum?” Is nota available here either. iPhone user. This is disappointing :(

  • Erin says:

    This selfie look like a museum painting this isn’t working on mine or my husbands phone .

    Very frustrating

    Once I downloaded app I couldn’t even find the option on the home screen .

    Please help

    Erin

  • Gabriel says:

    From France, Android, the option is not available in the app. I scrolled down all the way, looked everywhere, there is not options.

  • AJ says:

    Gen Xer here.

    I may be getting older, but I’m not quite blind (or disgruntled)

    Please qualify this article before ripping into us.

    It’s not there.

  • Tony says:

    Fail in Chicago area.

  • Max says:

    Live in Chicago, didn’t show up – used a VPN to show as New York and it showed up. I guess Google doesn’t think the midwest is worthy of this feature.

  • Talía says:

    Not able to find it either. Iphone user in Mexico.

  • Bruno says:

    And how do you VPN it?

  • deniz says:

    Not available in Turkey :(

  • Linda says:

    That worked. Thanks!

  • Mikaela says:

    FFS edit this article, the option isn’t even available (Android/Sweden). Complete waste of time.

  • Bela says:

    thanks, worked!

  • Ferdi Zebua says:

    Uninstalled. Not available in Indonesia.

  • FormerInformer says:

    The face-matching thing isn’t available in Chicago.

    Gen-X is computer illiterate? Heh. I remember being in my 20’s. Those were days of snarky self-importance. It’ll pass, hang in there.

  • Liesl says:

    No kidding. As though Gen X doesn’t understand technology. We built that shit and have been using it longer than most millenials have been alive!

  • Caroline says:

    I’m sorry. I’m a dumb geriatric GenYer and I don’t understand this article but perhaps this is all just one of the authors “primatologist” experiments. I hope I failed.

  • Nishat Afzal says:

    Same! I’m from India, and I don’t see the option, “Is your portrait in a museum?” I really wanted to try it! :(((( Hope it gets available to my location soon.

  • German Guy says:

    For all the people here I found a solution:

    1. install windscribe vpn app
    2. choose US-West and connect
    3. Install the Google arts app
    4. The feature will show up!

    Worked for me in Germany. I assume that until now only silicon valley guys have full access.
    Not anymore ;-) …enjoy it!

  • Francisco Maldonado says:

    Mexico here! Not available :(

  • Radek says:

    Not available from Berlin, but switching ip to Silicon Valley worked. Result was totally random, though

  • Jane says:

    Not available in New Zealand either! :(

  • Tt500girl says:

    HMM… have app- click on Home- the thing that looks a home right? I am 52 after all. Nothing- Nada zip and clicked on everything possible as well “searched” that’s that eye glass picture thingy- right?
    Nothing in Chicago

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