Google Launches Three New Artificial Intelligence Experiments That Could Be Godsends for Artists, Museums & Designers

You’ll recall, a few months ago, when Google made it pos­si­ble for all of your Face­book friends to find their dop­pel­gängers in art his­to­ry. As so often with that par­tic­u­lar com­pa­ny, the fun dis­trac­tion came as the tip of a research-and-devel­op­ment-inten­sive ice­berg, and they’ve revealed the next lay­er in the form of three arti­fi­cial intel­li­gence-dri­ven exper­i­ments that allow us to nav­i­gate and find con­nec­tions among huge swaths of visu­al cul­ture with unprece­dent­ed ease.

Google’s new Art Palette, as explained in the video at the top of the post, allows you to search for works of art held in “col­lec­tions from over 1500 cul­tur­al insti­tu­tions,” not just by artist or move­ment or theme but by col­or palette.

You can spec­i­fy a col­or set, take a pic­ture with your phone’s cam­era to use the col­ors around you, or even go with a ran­dom set of five col­ors to take you to new artis­tic realms entire­ly.

Admit­ted­ly, scrolling through the hun­dreds of chro­mat­i­cal­ly sim­i­lar works of art from all through­out his­to­ry and across the world can at first feel a lit­tle uncan­ny, like walk­ing into one of those hous­es whose occu­pant has shelved their books by col­or. But a vari­ety of promis­ing uses will imme­di­ate­ly come to mind, espe­cial­ly for those pro­fes­sion­al­ly involved in the aes­thet­ic fields. Famous­ly col­or-lov­ing, art-inspired fash­ion design­er Paul Smith, for instance, appears in anoth­er pro­mo­tion­al video describ­ing how he’d use Art Palette: he’d “start off with the col­ors that I’ve select­ed for that sea­son, and then through the app look at those col­ors and see what gets thrown up.”

In col­lab­o­ra­tion with the Muse­um of Mod­ern Art, Google’s Art Rec­og­niz­er, the sec­ond of these exper­i­ments, uses machine learn­ing to find par­tic­u­lar works of art as they’ve var­i­ous­ly appeared over decades and decades of exhi­bi­tion. “We had recent­ly launched 30,000 instal­la­tion images online, all the way back to 1929,” says MoMA Dig­i­tal Media Direc­tor Shan­non Dar­rough in the video above. But since “those images did­n’t con­tain any infor­ma­tion about the actu­al works in them,” it pre­sent­ed the oppor­tu­ni­ty to use machine learn­ing to train a sys­tem to rec­og­nize the works on dis­play in the images, which, in the words of Google Arts and Cul­ture Lab’s Freya Mur­ray, “turned a repos­i­to­ry of images into a search­able archive.”

The for­mi­da­ble pho­to­graph­ic hold­ings of Life mag­a­zine, which doc­u­ment­ed human affairs with char­ac­ter­is­ti­cal­ly vivid pho­to­jour­nal­ism for a big chunk of the twen­ti­eth cen­tu­ry, made for a sim­i­lar­ly entic­ing trove of machine-learn­able mate­r­i­al. “Life mag­a­zine is one of the most icon­ic pub­li­ca­tions in his­to­ry,” says Mur­ray in the video above. “Life Tags is an exper­i­ment that orga­nizes Life mag­a­zine’s archives into an inter­ac­tive ency­clo­pe­dia,” let­ting you browse by every tag from “Austin-Healey” to “Elec­tron­ics” to “Live­stock” to “Wrestling” and many more besides. Google’s invest­ment in arti­fi­cial intel­li­gence has made the his­to­ry of Life search­able. How much longer, one won­ders, before it makes the his­to­ry of life search­able?

Relat­ed Con­tent:

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

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

Google Launch­es a Free Course on Arti­fi­cial Intel­li­gence: Sign Up for Its New “Machine Learn­ing Crash Course”

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities and cul­ture. His projects include the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

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