Tech and the arts: An unlikely match that just might work

Can smartphones actually bring people closer to the arts?

Using an AI-powered smartphone app to appreciate fine art feels counterintuitive, but stick with us for a minute.

Two painted arms reaching toward a smartphone.

Fewer people are attending arts events — like museums, plays, and movies — in person since the pandemic. And in some cases, attendance was never that high: Pre-pandemic, just 25% to 31% of US adults reported visiting a museum within the year.

You know what is high, though? The rate of Americans who say they use the internet (95%) and have a smartphone (90%).

So if we want to get people involved in the arts again — does it need to reach them on their phone?

According to a growing group of startups, the answer is yes:

  • Rebind Publishing, which launched this week, is an AI-powered reading platform that lets users interact with chatbots that have been trained on expert analysis.
  • Jumbo Mana created an AI-powered Vincent van Gogh to answer visitors’ questions at an exhibit of his work in France’s Musee D’Orsay.
  • Hello History is an AI chatbot app that lets users interact with historical figures.

You can even make your own history with Orson’s, which gathers a user’s stories through automated interviews and edits those clips into a documentary.

Tech on display

To capture the attention of visitors, museums have been embracing tech for everything from immersive art installations to augmented reality apps that explain the history behind the art.

Plus, tech can be used to help art historians preserve and analyze artifacts:

  • Two-thousand-year-old Herculaneum scrolls that survived the Mount Vesuvius eruption were able to be read last year using X-ray and AI technology.
  • Missing parts of a trimmed Rembrandt painting were seen for the first time in 300 years with AI-generated restoration.
  • The Google Arts & Culture lab used machine learning to reconstruct the colors likely used in a Gustav Klimt painting.

And today’s tech can help historians to analyze and authenticate artworks more easily and accurately.

Now, time to go ask Van Gogh about that whole ear thing.

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