Australians can now find out if their 'portrait' is in an art museum, thanks to Google
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Australians can now find out if their 'portrait' is in an art museum, thanks to Google

You can now ask Google to find your 'portrait' in an art museum somewhere in the world, and it'll come up with at least one match. Just don't expect it to be flattering.

It took a few extra days to appear down under, but Australians can finally play the doppelganger game that's swept social media this week via the Google Arts & Culture app.

The app allows users to submit a selfie photo, and uses facial recognition technology to find a match among its international database of artworks. The database includes more than 1,500 museums from 70 countries, including Australia.

While some people have found their true doppelgangers out there, it seems the technology isn't always bang on.

US-based celebrities including Kristen Bell, Sarah Silverman, Zach Braff, Kumail Nanjiani and Kate Hudson joined in the fun this week, with mixed results.

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Some social media users have expressed concern that the app may be a sneaky way for Google to collect images of people's faces and perfect its facial-recognition technology.

But a spokesperson for Google said the feature never identifies the user in a selfie, and is only used to search the Arts & Culture database to find images with similarities. Google is not training any artificial intelligence on the selfies, nor retaining them in a database, he added. It's just about finding "new ways to get people excited about art and culture".

And as Quartz technology writer Karen Hao points out, the app could only be used to improve Google's facial recognition technology if it was receiving feedback on the accuracy of its matches.

So it seems the app feature is safe to use for now – as long as you're not afraid of feeling, like some of us, a little insulted by Google's opinion of your face.

Jenny Noyes

Jenny Noyes is a journalist at the Sydney Morning Herald. She was previously a writer and editor at Daily Life.

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