“This is a conservative institute by nature… you need to rock the boat,” says Max Hollein, the director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. Hollein’s call to action was made to computer scientists, developers, creatives, and other guests attending the unveiling of the Met’s collaboration with Microsoft and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology on Monday evening. His remarks underscored the value in creating technology to enhance the ways in which people can experience the art, culture, and history within the Met on a global scale.
The convergence of art and artificial intelligence was championed at the reveal celebration, introducing the collaborative project among the Met, Microsoft, and MIT that was born from the Met’s Open Access Program’s annual hackathon. The project marks the next chapter for the initiative which began two years ago and made all images of public-domain artworks available for audiences anywhere in the world to use without restriction. The Met, Microsoft, and MIT’s new developments utilizing artificial intelligence further the program’s mission to make artwork housed within the museum accessible to a global audience in interactive and intuitive ways.
Loic Tallon, the Chief Digital Officer of the Met, spoke to the audience about the possibilities that the AI-driven programs offer in terms of accessibility. He shared that the ultimate goal would be to reach each of the 3.9 billion internet users, and while that’s a lofty ambition, AI will definitely help make an impact. “For us, [AI is] transformative,” Tallon tells CR. “What I mean is that it will allow us to scale and personalize in a way that is multilingual, in a way that doesn’t see barriers, in a way that responds to individuals’ needs, and that I think is really exciting.”
The collaboration resulted in five new concepts each highlighting different functions that AI facilitates to connect people with art. One of the most straightforward examples was an application programming interface called Artwork of the Day, which presents the user with a daily piece of artwork selected for the individual based on his or her location and other factors like the weather, news, and historical data. Another program that aims to bring art into your everyday life is My Life, My Met, which uses Microsoft AI to analyze your Instagram posts and find a work of art that can be substituted for each of you posts. The Storyteller prototype takes it a step further and uses voice recognition AI to listen to you speak and then present artworks that relate to the story being told. After you are finished talking, you can share the artwork that Storyteller suggests on social media, have the AI create a tour of the Met based on the artworks selected, or compile the works into a printable booklet.
The presence of AI in these programs may not be as obvious as a bot engaging with the user, however it’s all in the details. The AI processes data allowing Artwork of the Day, Storyteller, and My Life, My Met to find the ideal images to enrich your daily life or Instagram feed. For the other prototypes, the more users engage with them and feed them information, the more developed they become. “We’re trying to demystify a segment [of AI],” Mark Hamilton, a software engineer at Microsoft and lead on the Gen Studio program, tells CR. “Maybe that segment is generating art or creating new works of art, so we tried to create a system where you get your hands dirty, play around with it, play with the algorithm and create something in a way that feels tangible.”
For the Met, however, the value of introducing a wide audience to these programs lies in the cultural currency that would be shared across the globe. “If we can make this collection accessible to people it will inspire them” Tallon says. “A museum’s mission is about connecting people to knowledge, creativity, and ideas through art. If we can build a way of increasing those connections people will learn just by connecting with our collections.”
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createdAt:Tue, 05 Feb 2019 15:43:23 +0000