#ArtTwins: Google Proves Mobile Tech Can Make Art Go Viral

Industry · February 7, 2018

Have you been seeing a lot of this in your social media newsfeed lately?

Or this?

Or even this?

If you’re wondering what’s been going on with the deluge of selfies paired with portraits, look no further than Google’s Arts and Culture app, the latest example of how technology can bridge cultural institutions to a wider audience.

Smartphone users have been enjoying a whole new portrait mode through Google’s Arts and Culture app–people can take a selfie through the app and the app finds their lookalike through works of art from across the world. Everyone from high school kids to celebrities are finding their dopplegangers through portraits from all over the world and connecting to art in a way they never had before. Within the first few days of the feature going live, Michelle Luo, Google’s Art and Culture Product Manager says that over 30 million selfies have been taken through the app.

As cool as the feature is, we know the reason for its popularity isn’t necessarily its accuracy as actress Kristen Bell demonstrates:

It’s the personal connection, shareability, and fun! With the technology in their pocket, users can explore versions of themselves through artistic movements, learn more about art history, and share that excitement with their social media communities. When Google’s Director of their Art and Culture Project, Amit Sood started the project, he took a look at the millions of pieces in the app’s database and hoped to do exactly that. When Sood showcased the possibilities for the app at a Ted Talk in 2016, he said, “When we saw these portraits we said hey, can we do something fun for kids? Or can we do something playful to get people interested in portraits? Because I haven’t really seen young kids excited to go to a portrait gallery.”

With millions of social media shares of the portrait match up and downloads of the app, that excitement has gone viral. “I’ve shown it to my nephew [and other people]…” Sood mentioned with a laugh at his Ted Talk. “..and the reaction is just phenomenal! All they’re asking is ‘when can we go see this?’”

We use our technology every day to make connections–to our friends, to new jobs, to our family, our passions, and to ourselves. Why not use it to engage with art, culture, and history and have some fun doing it?

At Guru, engagement is what we do.We are constantly looking for fun and new ways to create meaningful connections to museums, zoos, and heritage sites through the tools we use everyday. Our latest creation in the works?–Photo Filters! Think Snapchat filters, but targeted and themed around events, exhibits, and works of art…and most importantly, customized for each one of our customers. These filters will give users the chance to put a fun, themed, overlay over their selfie. Put yourself in a painting at your favorite art gallery, or see yourself with the keen eyes and ears of a lion at your local zoo, or see an impressionist take on your selfie!

These Photo Filters can be used to promote events, inspire social sharing, and can be used with museum, zoo, or venue hashtags. Look for our Photo Filters coming through our Guru app! In the meantime, we’ll keep playing with our portrait matchups:

These portrait matchups were contributed by the real faces of our Guru team! Learn more about the people behind the faces on our Guru team page!


See the ways Augmented Reality can create connections to portraits. Guru lets art speak and connect with smartphone users–literally! Through the Augmented Reality function on our app, paintings and exhibits can come to life. Try it now with Pompeo Girolamo Batoni’s painting, “Cardinal Etienne-Rene Potier de Gesvres” !

  1. Download the Guru LLC app in the Apple or Android stores.
  2. Tap “AR” at the top right of the app’s menu
  3. Scroll down and select “Augmented Reality: Etienne Rene”, then point your phone at the image below for a surprise interview with the Cardinal (don’t forget to allow the app to access your camera function!)