It’s amazing what a powerful driver human curiosity can be. Just look at Google’s noble-minded but pretty unexciting Google Arts & Culture app — overlooked by most until it launched a feature last week that let users match their selfies to faces in famous artworks.
Now, since at least this weekend onwards, it’s been riding high as the most-downloaded free app on both iOS and Android. Heavy-hitters like Messenger and YouTube have been left in the dust. Even, uh, Sweatcoin (which apparently lets you mine cryptocurrency by walking somehow?) has fallen behind.
The app itself has been available since 2016, and offers an impressive mix of articles and features on artists and art history. It’s also a fantastic catalogue of artworks, letting you explore by different styles, time periods — even colors.
But really, congratulations must got to whoever at Google thought of using some fairly straightforward facial recognition tech to match selfies to paintings. I hope they got a raise. Even celebrities have been trying it out:
Torn between which one I think is better likeness with the Google Arts and Culture app. pic.twitter.com/uSw8RmOip8
— Felicia Day (@feliciaday) January 13, 2018
Hey this one ain’t so bad. pic.twitter.com/er0FxZNVO8
— Kumail Nanjiani (@kumailn) January 13, 2018
The only problem is that Google Arts & Culture has been a victim of its own success. It’s not clear how widely available the selfie-matching feature is outside of the US (it might be restricted in Europe because of the EU’s regulations on facial recognition tech). This has led to more than a few disgruntled reviews from users overseas. They love Arts & Culture, but only if they can get their selfies matched first.
Google’s arts and culture app getting bombarded with one star reviews in the UK for not having the what famous artwork do you look like feature pic.twitter.com/noTUlRDcRv
— James Titcomb (@jamestitcomb) January 16, 2018